India starts trade route to Afghanistan via Iran

Markets Associated Press

India on Sunday shipped its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through Iran's strategic Chahbahar Port, launching a trade route bypassing longtime rival Pakistan.

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The shipment, an Indian gift for Afghanistan, was sent from the western seaport of Kandla. It will be taken by trucks to Afghanistan from the Iranian port.

The new trade route follows an air freight corridor introduced between India and Afghanistan in June last year to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.

In his new Afghanistan strategy unveiled in August, U.S. President Donald Trump asked India to do more to help Afghanistan's development.

Pakistan currently does not allow India to transport through its territory to Afghanistan because of hostility in their ties. It sees no role by India in Afghanistan.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Sunday that the shipment marked the convergence among India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur an unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region.

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"I believe that this is the starting point of our journey to realize the full spectrum of connectivity — from culture to commerce, from traditions to technology, from investments to IT, from services to strategy and from people to politics," Swaraj said.

India, Afghanistan and Iran last year decided to jointly establish a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries. India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chahabar Port along with associated roads and rail lines.