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Indian wheat reaches Kabul bypassing Islamabad

The first phase of the strategically located Chabahar port was inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on December 3. India, Iran and Afghanistan reiterated their commitment to the early operationalization of the port that will contribute to bilateral and regional trade and economic development, apart from providing land-locked Afghanistan an alternative access to regional and global markets.

Minister of state (shipping) Pon Radhakrishnan represented India at the inauguration of phase one+ of what is known as the Shahid Beheshti port at Chabahar. He also represented India in the second edition of the India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level meeting on Chabahar port development.

The Chabahar project, located on the Gulf of Oman, only 85km from China's Gwadar port in Pakistan, is important for India as it will allow access to Afghanistan and Central Asia  bypassing  Pakistan.

The MEA said the three countries agreed to further intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and Chabahar port development under the trilateral transit and trade agreement at the meeting. The agreement is yet to be ratified by Iran but India expressed "positive appreciation" to the Iranian side on recent steps taken towards ratification by Iran's Majlis, its parliament.

The completion of the internal procedures on the ratification process by Iran is expected to lead to full and early operationalisation of the transit and trade arrangement between the three countries through the Chabahar port," a government statement said.

The three sides also commended the recent joint efforts that led to the transit of the first tranche of 1,10,000 tonnes of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Chabahar. In a joint statement, the three countries reiterated their commitment to organising a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by the port.

The routes of the region should be connected on land, sea and air," Rouhani said at the inauguration ceremony, according to his office. The port is likely to ramp up trade between India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying New Delhi transit access for trade with the two countries. India has been working with Afghanistan to create alternative, reliable access routes, bypassing Pakistan.

The current US administration is not well disposed towards the Iranian regime over nuclear issues but has permitted India to continue with the port project as it will open up independent supply lines to Kabul where the US forces are fighting the Taliban. The presence of Minister of state for shipping Radhakrishan from the Indian side along with Iranian President Rouhani indicates that New Delhi wants the inauguration to be a low key affair.


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