India on 29 October 2017 flagged off a shipment of wheat for Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port marking the operationalization of the port for the trans-shipment of goods from India to the landlocked country.
The development is seen as a significant one as it torpedoes Pakistan’s veto over trade between India and Afghanistan a move aimed at circumscribing India’s role in Afghanistan. And it comes almost 15 years after India and Iran first agreed to develop the Chabahar port to ease connectivity bottlenecks for New Delhi in reaching out to landlocked Central Asia and Afghanistan. It also follows US president Donald Trump in August calling on India to play a larger role in stabilizing war torn Afghanistan as he announced a revamped security plan to defeat a resurgent Taliban.
Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani joined his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj through a joint video conference as the latter in New Delhi flagged off a ship carrying the first consignment of wheat from India’s Kandla port to Afghanistan. The Chabahar port is also less than 100km from Pakistan’s Chinese-built port of Gwadar, which is part of the China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor project (CPEC) aimed at opening up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf to western China. The CPEC is also a strand of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative that aims to connect around 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe through a series of roads, railways and ports.