India ships first wheat consignment to Afghanistan via Chabahar
Even as tense US-Iran relations continue to cast a shadow over India's schemes for Chabahar, India shipped its first wheat consignment to Afghanistan via the port. This is being touted as a "landmark move" to open up a strategic transit route to central Asia, which bypasses a hostile Pakistan. The consignment was shipped off from the Kandla port in Gujarat. Here's more about it.
Why is this important?
This is the very first shipment to Afghanistan going via Chabahar in Iran under trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor signed in 2016. According to the MEA, this would pave way for creating an alternate, robust, reliable supply route for Afghanistan.
Why is Chabahar important for India?
Chabahar improves India's connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. Its location close to Gwadar port gives India an immense strategic advantage and enables India to keep a check on Chinese and Pakistani activities in the region. Chabahar is also an important link within the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which is being touted as an alternative to China's One Belt One Road.
PM Modi congratulates Afghanistan and Iran
Swaraj flags off the shipment on a positive note
While flagging off the shipment from Kandla, Gujarat, Swaraj highlighted the centuries-old commonalities between Iran, Afghanistan and India. She termed the move "an important step in realising the shared aspiration to carve out new routes of peace and prosperity." She also termed the shipment "a testament to the continued Indian commitment to support our Afghan brethren in building a...peaceful... bright future for themselves."
Are strained US-Iran relations affecting Chabahar development?
Officials at India's Ministry of External Affairs recently expressed concerns that US President Donald Trump's bid to re-impose sanctions on Tehran may slow down the pace of Chabahar port's development. Moreover, several western manufacturers have reportedly refused to supply equipment for Chabahar's development in this context. New Delhi feels the US' sanctions and wider Iran policy negatively impact India's strategic ambitions.
India will continue aiding reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The shipments of six more consignments of wheat to Afghanistan are planned for the next few months. In the longer term, the sea transit route might succeed in establishing connectivity to the region.