08 Nov 2017/Wednesday.
India’s Wheat Diplomacy to reach out to Afghanistan received a boost, when two ships carrying 15,000 and 110,000 tons of wheat, arrived in Chabahar Port from Indian port of Kandla, within a span of three days. India plans to send seven shipments of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar. by the end of January. The cargoes are expected to be loaded on thousands of trucks and then taken to Western Afghanistan.
The shipments are meant to demonstrate the route’s viability and the plan is to broaden the cargo flow before the port is fully operational by the end of next year. The new route would create a unique opportunity for India to send its goods to landlocked Afghanistan through a safe route. It would also enable Afghan merchants to export their commodities – mainly fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and more importantly minerals – to global markets, through Chabahar.
By early next year, India would have shipped 1 million tons of the much-needed grain and consolidated on its goodwill in Afghanistan. India has announced an investment of $500 million in the Chabahar port complex and is hopeful that the strategic port will be operational by the end of 2018.
Located on the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman in southeastern Iran, Chabahar is India’s first foreign port project. Chabhar is planned to be linked with Delaram-Zaranj road, built by India in Afghanistan that connects at Afghan-Iran border via rail through Zahedan. A road already connects the Iran-Afghan border point to Chahabar. India is also constructing a railway line between Chabahar and Zahedan to connect the port to rest of the Iranian railway network. Once completed, the project would enable the world to connect with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. The port, through this railway network, could also be linked with the International North South Transit Corridor connecting India with Russia.
Chabahar masterstroke demonstrates that, now obstructionist Pakistan cannot dictate the pace of India-Afghanistan bilateral trade. In addition, Chabahar Port is also likely to play significant role in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea through Gwadar port. It can be used to place naval security vessels for merchant ships off the African coast giving the country a foothold in the western Arabian Sea, which is an important energy route. In other words the Chahabar when fully operational, will seriously dent Chinese strategic advantage accruing though OBOR(CPEC).