History made with the arrival of Afghan shipment via Chabahar

Jatin Desai
Sunday, 17 March 2019

History was made on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, when a first Afghan shipment through Chabahar, Iran, arrived at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). As Afghanistan is a landlocked country, it has to depend on a neighbouring country for its export and import.

History was made on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, when a first Afghan shipment through Chabahar, Iran, arrived at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). As Afghanistan is a landlocked country, it has to depend on a neighbouring country for its export and import. 

The Convention on Transit Trade of Landlocked States is a multilateral treaty that allows landlocked countries to transport goods to and from other countries using neighbouring countries seaports. 

The three countries - Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan - are the landlocked countries in South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC). Nepal and Bhutan mainly use Indian roads for their import and exports. Afghanistan has to depend primarily on Pakistan and Iran.

In pure economics of trade, the first shipment can be seen as a beginning of a new dawn, a new chapter in the history of the three countries viz. India, Afghanistan and Iran. The historic relations between these three nations will become much stronger and Chabahar will play a significant role. The first shipment contained 570 tonnes of goods, like 130 tonnes of Mung Beans and 440 tonne of Talc. 

The current trade between the two countries is mere $1 billion. With the opening of the Chabahar route, the trade volume is expected to reach $2 billion next year. The sad fact is that tintra-regional trade within SAARC countries is less than 5 per cent.

The shipment arrived under the United Nations Transports Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transport (TIR) convention. India has joined the TIR convention in 2017 and became its 71st member. The TIR procedure allows goods to move under customs control across international borders without the payment of duties. The condition is that the movement of goods must include transport of goods by road (even if it is a small portion). A shipment also arrived at Mundra port in Gujarat.

Chabahar is strategically located in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran and it is only 70 km from the Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The Gwadar port is developed by China. China’s $60 billion ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connects Gwadar with China’s Kashgar, a provincial capital, in a Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. 

In this background, Chabahar port has a significant importance. The development of the Chabahar port with the three-way land transit agreement signed in 2016 between India-Afghanistan-Iran will open a new route to resource rich Central Asian countries, Russia and all the way up to Europe. Reaching to the oil rich Central Asian countries through Chabahar, bypassing Pakistan will provide market access to Indian goods and industry.  

In 2017, air cargo was launched but transporting goods via sea is always cheaper. So, a significant opportunity is made available now. There are certain issues of connecting Chabahar with the Afghanistan. India is committed to setting up a rail route between Chabahar Port and Zahedan in Iran bordering Afghanistan. Later, it will be extended up to Zaranj in Afghanistan’s Nimruz province. The distance between Zahedan and Zaranj is around 250 km. The Chabahar port can also be referred as India’s Gateway to Eurasia. The first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Chabahar port had reached Zaranj on October 29, 2017.
  
The US has granted waiver from sanctions to India to import oil from Iran for India’s role in developing Chabahar port and construction of a railway line from the port to the Zahedan. 
Iran has a huge oil reserve and India is a heavy importer. 

The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project did not materialise primarily due to US pressure on India and ‘tense’ relations between India and Pakistan.
 
Now, the other option is deep-sea pipeline via Chabahar or Bandar Abbas. Once the railway line becomes operational, the importance of Chabahar will increase tremendously. 

In JNPT, Nasim Sarifi, Consular-General of Afghanistan and Khushru Reza Zadeh, Consul-General of Iran along with Government of India’s representative received the consignment. 

Related News