It may be recalled Pakistan is an obstacle to the direct India-Afghan trade route that passes through Pakistani territory.
New Delhi: In a major step that is part of the connectivity initiative to circumvent an obstinate Pakistan, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani, through a joint video conference, on Sunday flagged off the first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan that will be transhipped through the Chabahar port in Iran. The shipment is a part of India’s commitment to supply 1.1 million tonnes of wheat for the Afghan people “on a grant basis” and “will pave the way for operationalisation of Chabahar as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan”.
This move comes days Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to New Delhi and soon after the United States said it had no objection to the India-Afghan-Iranian initiative to develop Chabahar that will slash Afghan dependence on Pakistan for access to the sea. Sunday’s move will ensure the sea-land connectivity initiative through Iran between New Delhi and Kabul and comes after the start of an airfreight corridor linking India and Afghanistan. It may be recalled Pakistan is an obstacle to the direct India-Afghan trade route that passes through Pakistani territory.
In a statement, India said: “The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for the operationalisation of Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan. It will 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.”
Ms Swaraj said: “I am extremely delighted that today we have joined on a momentous occasion for the people of our three countries and the region... We established the air corridor between India and Afghanistan to overfly the obstacles imposed by geography and mindsets. Today, we are bridging them through sea and land under our trilateral cooperation.”
She added: “Last year in May, when our leaders met in Tehran, they jointly took the decision to establish an international transport and transit corridor between India, Afghanistan and Iran. Today, as we jointly flag off the first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port, we are taking an important step in realising that shared aspiration to carve out the new routes of peace and prosperity. The wheat that is leaving Indian shores today is a gift from the people of India to our Afghan brethren. It is testament to the continued commitment of the government and people of India to support our Afghan brethren... This is manifestation of our New Development Partnership that we committed to when foreign minister Rabbani was in India last month.”
In a significant move, Ms Swaraj also thanked Iran, and said: “At the same time, we are thankful to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for providing assistance in facilitating the movement of this gift through Chabahar Port. This shows the convergence between the ancient civilisations of India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region. The people of India, Afghanistan and Iran have been connected through centuries; shared commonalities of art and culture, ideas and knowledge; language and traditions. Today, we are rejuvenating these connects and commonalities. I believe this is the starting point of our journey to realise 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, that has been visualised by Prime Minister Modi.”