Indian wheat aid to Afghanistan bypasses Pakistan

Special Indian wheat aid to Afghanistan bypasses Pakistan
Workers unload sacks filled with wheat from in Punjab in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 12 November 2017

Indian wheat aid to Afghanistan bypasses Pakistan

Indian wheat aid to Afghanistan bypasses Pakistan

KABUL: An Indian shipment of 15,000 tons of wheat aid to Afghanistan arrived on Saturday via Iran’s Chabahar port near the Afghan province of Nimruz.

The rest of the consignment is expected to arrive in different stages, and is set to be completed by the end of January, Afghan officials said.

India has committed $500 million to the sea route, which will allow traders in landlocked Afghanistan to bypass alleged restrictions over shipment of their goods via Pakistan’s Karachi port, the officials added.

Earlier this year, Afghanistan opened an air corridor to fly tons of fresh fruit to India after Pakistan raised taxes on the goods.

The shortest and most cost-effective land routes between India and Afghanistan are through Pakistan, but New Delhi faces Pakistani restrictions on the flow of Indian goods bound for Afghanistan and Central Asia.

New Delhi tried to send wheat last year via Torkham, a border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Islamabad objected.

“With the opening of Chabahar port, Afghanistan will no longer be dependent on Karachi port,” said Nimruz Gov. Mohammad Samiullah.

The economic activity will create job opportunities and revenue for aid-reliant Afghanistan, he added. The port has a capacity of 8.5 million tons of goods, according to Afghan officials.

Chabahar allows India to have an alternative route for business in the region, said economic expert Aimal Sarwal.

Former Afghan Deputy Commerce Minister Ziauddin Zia told Arab News: “Chabahar is very significant for Afghanistan… It’s good for our exports and imports.”

The Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) on Saturday said bilateral trade is down due to various disputes.

“Recent data shows that Afghanistan’s trade with Iran is growing, but its trade with Pakistan is declining, and it should be a cause for concern,” PAJCCI Chairman Zubair Motiwala said in a statement.