India on Sunday sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port in Iran. This is considered as a major leap for India and its strategic outreach to landlocked Afghanistan, to which Pakistan has so far blocked access. Another six shipments of wheat will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months, reported the Indian Express. The shipment was flagged off from the Kandla port in Gujarat yesterday. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani were part of the ceremony through video conferencing. “The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said in a statement, reported PTI.
India and Afghanistan had recently launched an air freight corridor between the two countries to boost trade as Pakistan has been refusing land transit access through its territory. Since mid-June this year, India has sent 981 tonnes of fruit. But, as per the report, the air corridor has limitations in terms of capacity. On the other hand, the sea route has economic advantages. From Chabahar port, which is easily accessible to India, the consignment will be transported to Afghanistan over Iranian roads.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has meanwhile hailed the development as a “new chapter” in regional cooperation and connectivity. Chabahar port is expected to open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan, and enhance trade and commerce among the three countries and the wider region, including Central Asia. The trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Iran in May 2016.