NEW DELHI: In a landmark move to operationalise the strategically important Chabahar port, India on Sunday sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through this route which bypasses Pakistan.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj flagged off the consignment from the Kandla port in Gujarat. Her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani joined 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,” External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
Three months ago India and Afghanistan had started an air freight corridor to promote trade as Pakistan had refused land transit access. .
“I am extremely delighted that today we have joined on a momentous occasion for the people of our three countries and the region,” Ms. Swaraj said. She described the move as an important step in realising the shared aspiration to carve out “new routes” of peace and prosperity. The consignment will be transported to Afghanistan from Chabahar through land route.
She reaffirmed India’s commitment to support reconstruction, capacity building and socio-economic development of Afghanistan, including under the framework of the New Development Partnership which was announced last month.
“The wheat that is leaving the Indian shores today, is a gift from the people of India to our Afghan brethren. 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,” she said.
The Chabahar port in Iran is likely to throw open new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries as well as benefit the region.
“The people of India, Afghanistan and Iran have been connected through centuries; shared commonalities of art and culture, ideas and knowledge; language and traditions. Today, we are rejuvenating these connects and commonalities. I believe that this is the starting point of our journey to realise the full spectrum of connectivity,” Ms. Swaraj said.
The two Foreign Ministers welcomed the fact that this is the first shipment that would be going to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port after trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May last year, External Affairs Ministry said. .
At least six more wheat shipments will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months, it said. After the Modi government took over, the progress of the work on the Chabahar port was reviewed with the Iranian government and it was speeded up. Both the countries have committed themselves towards early completion of the project.