NEW DELHI: Marking a milestone in the development of an alternate trade route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan, India on Sunday sent its first consignment of wheat to the former through the Chabahar port in Iran.
The development is seen as a “landmark” move to operationalise the new strategic transit route. Flagged off from the Kandla port in Gujarat with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani looking on through video conferencing, the shipment 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.
Swaraj, for her part, said that she was an important step in realising the shared aspiration to carve out “new routes” of peace and prosperity. With Pakistan has refusing land transit access through its territory, India and Afghanistan had launched an air freight corridor in June between the two countries. The current consignment of wheat, once it reaches Chabahar, will be transported overland to Afghanistan.
“It is 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.
Six more wheat shipments will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months. India and Iran have already expressed commitment for early completion of the work on the Chabahar port project. Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations southern coast, the port lies outside the Persian Gulf and can be easily accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan.