India opens trade route to Afghanistan via Iran
India on Sunday shipped its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through Iran’s strategic Chahbahar Port.
The shipment was sent from its western seaport of Kandla and will be taken by road to Afghanistan from the Iranian port, AP reported.
The new trade route follows an air freight corridor introduced between India and Afghanistan in June last year to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday that the shipment marked the convergence among India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur an unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region.
“I believe that 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 IT, from services to strategy and from people to politics,” Swaraj said.
Last year, India, Afghanistan and Iran decided to jointly establish a trade route for landlocked Central Asian countries. India committed up to $500 million for the development of Chahabar Port along with associated roads and rail lines.
Swaraj also reiterated India’s continued commitment to support reconstruction, capacity building and socio-economic development of Afghanistan, including under the framework of the New Development Partnership announced last month.
“The wheat that is leaving Indian shores, is a gift from the people of India to our Afghan brethren. It bears testament to the continued commitment of the government and the people of India to support our Afghan brethren in building a normal, peaceful, prosperous, secure and bright future for themselves,” Swaraj said.
Chabahar Port is expected to open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries and the wider region.
“Today, we are rejuvenating these connects and commonalities. I believe that this is the starting point of our journey to realize the full spectrum of connectivity,” Swaraj said.
She al said six more wheat shipments will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months.
India and Iran have already expressed commitment for early completion of the Chabahar Port project.