Watch out, Pakistan! First Afghan cargo to India via Chabahar Port to start today
Kabul, Feb 23: The Afghanistan government on Saturday, February 23, announced that the first shipment of its goods will head to India through Chabahar Port in Iran in Sunday, February 24, TOLO News reported. This is expected to mark a new high in the India-Iran-Afghanistan trade relation as well as the regional dynamics in South Asia. The Chabahar Port is considered to be a reply to Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port built with the help of the Chinese.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's spokesperson Haroon Chakhansuri said the shipment will leave for Chabahar from the city of Zaranj in Nimroz province in the west of Afghanistan, the report added. He said the ship will carry 570 tons of export goods carried by 23 vehicles.
"As part of the transit routes inaugurated by the Afghan government, the first shipment of Afghan export goods will head to Chabahar Port from Zaranj city through Abrisham Bridge and then to India. This is the first time that Afghanistan will be directly connected with India by using Chabahar Port," he said.
An alert for Pakistan as three of its neighbours now have a functional route
Chakhansuri said President Ghani will flag off Afghanistan's maiden cargo to head for India through the key geostrategic port. Chabahar provides sea access to landlocked Afghanistan and once operational, this will help India and Afghanistan connect each other bypassing Pakistan, their common foe, via Iran for trade and other strategic gains extending even up to Central Asia.
Islamabad will certainly not feel assured by this development as it will mean three of its immediate neighbours have now a functional cooperation between them without touching its territory.
In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a pact on the establishment of a Transit and Transport Corridor among the three nations using Chabahar Port as the regional hub for transportation via sea. The development took place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on a visit to Iran and Afghanistan at that time.
In February 2018, Iran said it decided to lease operational control of the port to India for a period of 18 months and in June, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said New Delhi was trying to make the key port fully functional by 2019.
In December last year, a trilateral meeting took place between officials from India, Afghanistan and Iran on Chabahar where the routes for trade and transit corridors between the three nations were agreed upon.