Iran offers alternative route for boosting India-Afghan trade

Islamabad, Sept 22, IRNA - Iran can be a viable alternative trading route for India to send its goods to Afghanistan as Pakistan is not ready for restoration of India-Afghanistan trade route using its land.

At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India, but India is not allowed to send its goods via Pakistan.

Pakistan says before allowing India to use the land route for trading with Afghanistan, technical and strategic issues connected to transit trade should be resolved first.

Afghanistan insists that India must be part of the transit trade agreement in the same way as Pakistan uses Afghan soil to reach Central Asian states.

In the current circumstances Iran provides the only feasible route to India to enhance its trade with Afghanistan.

In April 2016 Iran, Afghanistan and India finished negotiating the details of the trilateral transport and transit pact, meant to provide legal framework to operate trade corridors via Iran’s Chabahar port.

India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chabahar port, along with roads and rail lines.

Earlier US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass had said Pakistan 'is considering resumption of India-Afghanistan trade via its territory'.

Pakistan had approached Afghanistan earlier this year and indicated its willingness to resume trade between Afghanistan and India through its land, Bass said.

On the other hand, the Indian firms are gradually increasing their investments in Afghanistan. The Indian government wants to use Chabahar as a means to expand bilateral trade and help improve Afghanistan's connectivity with South Asia.

Reports say that Chabahar Port, which is being developed with funded by India, is a golden gateway that will help in reaching out to land-locked Afghanistan and central Asia.

Last year, New Delhi successfully sent shipments of wheat aid to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port, bypassing Pakistan.

Chabahar offers India connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Along with Bandar Abbas port, Iran also offers India a means of multimodal connectivity all the way to Europe.

Chabahar is located about 140km from Pakistan's Gwadar port, which is being developed with Chinese help as part of the 'Belt and Road Initiative'.

However, both Iran and Pakistan have agreed that Chabahar and Gwadar ports are complementary to each other. Iran and Pakistan have already decided to enhance their bilateral trade volume to $5 billion in five years.

So these two ports, which are located a short distance from each other, can help connectivity from India and China to Central Asia and vice-versa.

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