EghtesadOnline: India’s first consignment of wheat to be sent to Afghanistan arrived at Iran’s southeastern port of Chabahar on Wednesday morning.
This is the first of six wheat shipments (130,000 tons in total) that would be going to Afghanistan from India through Chabahar after the Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in Tehran in May 2016.
Officials from the three countries, including ambassadors of India and Afghanistan in Tehran, Saurabh Kumar and Nasir Ahmad Nour, respectively attended the welcoming ceremony for the arrival of the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines’ vessel BEHSHAD from India’s western port of Kandla, IRNA reported.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was joined by her Afghan and Iranian counterparts Salahuddin Rabbani and Mohammed Javad Zarif through a joint videoconference, to ceremonially flag off the shipment from India on Sunday, Financial Tribune reported.
“The shipment is part of a commitment made by the government of India to supply 1.1 million tons of wheat for the people of Afghanistan on a grant basis,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated.
According to officials with Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran, the direct transportation of goods from the port of Kandla to Chabahar would result in saving $750 per 40-foot container and a one-day reduction in the time of transportation and the costs of transport from Chabahar to Kandla would also be cut by $500 for each 40-foot container.
The Indian premier wrote on Twitter that the launch of the trade route “marks a new chapter in regional cooperation and connectivity”.
The Chabahar transit route is intended to improve landlocked Afghanistan’s trade connectivity with India and other countries in South and Southeast Asia. It will also help India to access the markets of Central Asia and Europe through Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
Islamabad at present allows trucks from Afghanistan to carry goods through Pakistan only up to Wagah (a checkpoint on the Pakistani side on the border) and not up to Attari (a checkpoint on the Indian side of the border).
The goods have to be unloaded from trucks coming from Afghanistan in Wagah and loaded again on other vehicles to be brought to Attari and finally into India.
The Afghan trucks then return empty to Afghanistan, as they are not allowed to carry goods from India.
Islamabad has repeatedly rejected calls by New Delhi and Kabul to allow hassle-free two-way trade between Afghanistan and India through Pakistan.
During his visit to New Delhi last Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani warned that if Islamabad continued to deny entrepreneurs from his country access to India and rest of South Asia, his government, too, would retaliate and close transit for the traders of Pakistan through Afghanistan to Central Asia.
In June, India and Afghanistan launched a dedicated air freight corridor to boost bilateral commerce averting bottlenecks created by Pakistan on land connectivity between Central and South Asia.
Chabahar Port, located in Sistan-Baluchestan Province on the southeastern coast of Iran, is a port of great strategic utility for India. It lies outside the Persian Gulf and can be accessed from India’s western coast. It is Iran’s only oceanic port.
As per the trilateral transport and transit deal, Indian exporters will be allowed to utilize Chabahar Port and access markets in Afghanistan through Zahedan.
New Delhi last year agreed to provide provision and operationalization of credit of $150 million from EXIM Bank for the development of Chabahar Port.
India will equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port in Phase I with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.