- India shipped its first consignment of Wheat to Afghanistan by sea through IRAN’s strategic Chabahar port, launching a trade bypassing Pakistan.
- This shipment was sent from Western sea port of Kandla, and it will be taken by trucks to Afghanistan through Iranian port.
- Chabahar is much older initiative almost since mid-1990’s which got the idea of connectivity with Afghanistan via IRAN through this port in 2002.
- This trade was conceived around 2002 after the defeat of the Taliban.
- This shipment is not only having an economic and commercial assistance but also strategic significance.
- The new trade route follows an air freight corridor introduced between India and Afghanistan to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.
- The Chabahar is much more fast and efficient route to Afghanistan which is economically and strategically viable.
- There were lots of twists and turns as far as IRAN-US relations are concerned but due to the sanctions on IRAN this step would have taken much earlier.
- Afghanistan was in the Transit Trade Agreement with Pakistan where Afghanistan has its hands tied due to Pakistan’s inflexibility where in the trucks were allowed to reached Wagah border but went empty.
- Pakistan currently do not allow India to transport through its territory to Afghanistan as it sees no role of India in Afghanistan.
- There has been signals from China and Pakistan as well for this trade route as it is so close to Gwadar which is central jewel to CPEC.
- Chinese are not going to take it lightly as they have invested billions of dollars while Pakistan do not realise that they have been gone into a debt trap and prompting the CPEC as an achievement.
Strategic importance of the move
- India has also been able to convince USA that Indo-IRAN relations should not be looked in the context of US-IRAN relations as Afghanistan is important and IRAN hence becomes important link.
- Through IRAN, India is also having its focus on Central Asia beyond to Russia and Europe.
- So, India with Australia, USA, Japan and IRAN are also trying to have an alternative maritime route to OBOR
- USA was not able to achieve much in the region despite all security & military measure, and economic assistance, so it is looking towards India as a prospective partner to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.
- USA is now willing to put pressure on Pakistan so that it does not destabilise Afghanistan any more than what it has been doing.
- Indian strategic goal is achieved proving Pakistan to be the roadblock in stabilising Afghanistan and its trade with India through land route.
- There can be no stable Afghanistan without Pakistan ceasing its interference and India can’t be a major player in Afghanistan which Pakistan sees as a strategic depth.
- If this route becomes successful and viable then Afghanistan’s growth will take-off India’s investment in a big way, but India should also keep Chinese and Pakistan’s interruption in mind.