In a landmark move towards realising an alternate
strategic transit route to land-locked Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan, India
despatched the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar port
The first shipment, which left Kandla port to go
via Chabahar port in Iran, was flagged off through video conferencing by
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin
"The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment
as it will pave the way for realisation of Chabahar port as an alternate,
reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan," the Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
This is the first time India is using the Iranian
port and its railway system to reach battle torn Afghanistan. With Winter
approaching the mountainous country, the wheat consignment from India will be a
boon to th war torn country.
The swift decision to move wheat by ships came
immediatley after New Delhi shot down Islamabad's offer of land passage through
Pakistan for movement of goods to Kabul.
Pakistani offer of transit passage to Kabul for
Indian goods was made by no less a person than the country's army chief General
Qamar Javed during his recent meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at
Kabul on October one.
During the meeting held to renew the Afghanistan
Pakistan transit trade agreement President Ghani had expressed concern that
trade with India through the Wagah border had been blocked by Pakistan despite
being agreed to in the trade agreement.
The Pakistan army chief responded by saying that
India should take up the matter with them and that he would sort out the issue.
India however felt that it was not a real offer and hence decided not to pursue
Pakistan has been consistently opposing India's
move to transport goods to Afghanistan by road and instead asked New Delhi to
transport goods through Karachi port. The dialogue with Pakistan on transit
arrangement have not fructified during the last fifteen years. The wheat
shipment through the Iranian port Chabahar should be seen in this context said
sources in the external affairs ministry
"I am delighted that today we have joined a
momentous occasion for the people of the three countries," Swaraj said,
describing the move as an important step in realising the shared aspirations to
carve out "new routes" of peace and prosperity.
"The wheat that is leaving the Indian shores
today, is a gift from the people of India to our Afghan brethren. It is a
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.
This is an important step towards establishing
regional connectivity initiatives, particularly as the world remains enamoured
of China's grand OBOR project. A senior Indian diplomat "This large
shipment will establish the viability of a new commercial route, realising a
long-standing Afghan dream and filling a critical gap in India's
The wheat shipment is also a logical conclusion
to a process started soon after the Taliban was ousted from Kabul in 2001, when
India started lending its political and economic resources to help rebuild a
Even as early as in 2002, Pakistan blocked
India's efforts to send wheat to Afghanistan during a food-scarce year. India
donated 1 million metric tons of wheat to the World Food Program (the largest
single donation in its history) in the form of high-energy fortified biscuits
for WFP's school feeding programme, thus beginning a long assistance
relationship with Afghanistan.
In June this year,
India and Afghanistan had launched an air freight corridor between the two
countries to boost trade as Pakistan continues to deny land transit access
through its territory. The current Afghan president Ashraf Ghani recently
threatened reciprocal measures if Pakistan refused to abide by an Af-Pak trade
and transit agreement to allow goods from India to traverse through Pakistan.
"The people of
India, Afghanistan and Iran have been connected through shared commonalities of
art and culture, ideas and knowledge; language and traditions. Today, we are
rejuvenating these connects and commonalities. I believe that this is the
starting point of our journey to realise the full spectrum of
connectivity," Swaraj said.
The moving of the
shipment was made easier by a trilateral agreement to establish an
international transport and transit corridor signed by PM Narendra Modi, Afghan
president Ashraf Ghani and Iranian PM Hassan Rouhani in May 2016.
Earlier this year,
India also signed the global TIR Convention, which removed a persistent hurdle
for India's international connectivity projects. India's accession will be a
big boost for the Chabahar and the North-South corridor project.