India starts new trade route to Afghanistan via Iran

India starts new trade route to Afghanistan via Iran
FILE PHOTO: A general view of an oil dock is seen from a ship at the port of Kalantari in the city of Chabahar, 300 km (186 miles) east of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran January 17, 2012. (Reuters)
Updated 30 October 2017

India starts new trade route to Afghanistan via Iran

India starts new trade route to Afghanistan via Iran

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan on Sunday welcomed the first ever shipment of wheat from India to the landlocked country via Iran’s Chabahar port.

“It’s the beginning of a new era, one of prosperity, of economic integration between South and Central Asia, bridged by Afghanistan. It’s a strategic asset for Afghanistan and the region,” Shiada M. Abdali, Afghan ambassador to India, told Arab News.

“The opening of a sea route brings Afghanistan back to its traditional role in the region as a bridge between South and Central Asia.”

India’s Foreign Ministry described the shipment as “a landmark moment,” adding: “It will open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan, and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries (India, Iran and Afghanistan) and the wider region.”

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said: “This is the starting point of our journey to realize the full spectrum of connectivity from culture to commerce, from traditions to technology, from investments to information technology, from services to strategy, and from people to politics.”

It is also “a significant development” for India, Vishal Chandra, research fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), told Arab News.

“It’ll not only revive the Afghan economy but also extend India’s commercial outreach to Central Asia,” he said.

“The port comes at a crucial time when Afghanistan is passing through a rough security phase, and the new economic route will provide new hope. The whole idea is that Afghanistan develops its capacity to be more independent.”

India and Afghanistan established an air freight corridor in June, and last month they held a four-day mega trade show in New Delhi to boost bilateral economic engagement.

India and Iran reached an agreement to develop Chabahar port in 2003 to help New Delhi reach out to landlocked Central Asia and Afghanistan.