- The development of Iran’s Chabahar port as a new strategic trade route between Afghanistan and India reached a major milestone in November, with the port handling Indian cargo bound for Afghanistan for the first time.
- India’s role in Afghanistan is opposed by Pakistan, but the current US administration’s policy in Afghanistan is likely to encourage the development of Indian commercial interests in the country.
- Pakistan’s ongoing suspicion of Indian interests in Afghanistan means that its leadership will continue to resist meaningful action against Taliban safe-havens in its territory – a key impediment to peace talks.
The operationalisation of Chabahar port in Iran underlines India’s growing role in Afghanistan, but increasing bilateral co-operation is likely to be resisted by Pakistan and the Taliban.
India’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Manpreet Vohra, said that an Indian shipment of 1.1 million tons of wheat had commenced arrival in Kabul from India via Iran’s Chabahar port on 11 November. At the shipment’s launching ceremony at Kandia port in Gujarat, India, on 29 October, the Afghan and Indian governments described the event as a “landmark” achievement in the development of Chabahar port.
The port, planned for 15 years and financed by India, is central to an Indo–Afghan strategy to increase bilateral trade through bypassing Pakistan, which has strained the latter’s relations with New Delhi and Kabul. India and Afghanistan have cited restrictions and tariffs imposed by Pakistan as a factor motivating increased Indo–Afghan trade, which totalled just USD684 million in 2014–15; the two countries believe that this figure can be significantly increased with further development of the Chabahar trade route. India has a particular interest in importing iron ore and other natural resources from Afghanistan, while expanding the market for Indian manufactured goods in that country. India completed the Zaranj–Delaram highway in western Afghanistan in 2009, and this route has been connected to the Iranian border and subsequently to Chabahar.
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