President Ashraf Ghani flags off first consignment from Afghanistan to India via Chabahar
President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday flagged off the first consignment of Afghan exports to India through Chabahar port, saying the new trade route through Iran will help double his country’s exports to $2 billion.
Ghani flagged off the convoy of trucks at a ceremony in Zaranj that was attended by the ambassadors of India, Iran and Turkey and diplomats of Indonesia and Kazakhstan, officials said.
The consignment will head to Chabahar from Zaranj city in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province. The 570 tonnes of cargo includes Afghan carpets, dry fruits, cotton, talc, stones and other items.
Addressing the ceremony, Ghani said Afghanistan is not a landlocked country as it is the heart of Asia. The country is changing from an importer to an exporter, and with the opening of the Chabahar route, exports will increase from the current level of $1 billion to $2 billion in the next year, he added.
Indian ambassador Vinay Kumar said Afghanistan’s exports to India had increased 40% after the launch of an air corridor between Kabul and New Delhi.
Later, during a meeting in Zaranj, Ghani said an elite unit of the National Directorate of Security will be deployed to protect the route from Nimroz to Chabahar to ensure the safe movement of goods.
“Chabahar Day”, a business event to promote the port and the trade corridor, will be held at the Iranian port on February 26. India’s shipping secretary will lead the official delegation to the event, while CII is sending a delegation of 30 companies.
People familiar with developments said the event will provide an opportunity to India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian states to explore Chabahar’s potential for promoting regional connectivity and trade with landlocked countries.
In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement for establishing a transit and transport corridor using Chabahar as a regional hub.
India has helped develop the Iranian port to facilitate trade with Afghanistan and reduce dependence on trade routes through Pakistan. Last December, Indian company India Ports Global Limited took over operations at Shaheed Behesti terminal of Chabahar.
India has delivered 110,000 tonnes of wheat, pulses and other assistance to Afghanistan through Chabahar port since 2017.
During meetings held last October and December, the three countries finalised the routes for the trade and transit corridor through Chabahar. In January, direct shipping services were established between three Indian ports and Chabahar.
The new route launched on Sunday will supplement the air freight corridors established since June 2017 that link the cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Herat in Afghanistan with Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad in India.
Trade between India and Afghanistan increased by 40% in 2018-19, exceeding $1 billion. Afghanistan now has a trade surplus, as its exports to India, last year were worth $740 million.