Bypassing Pakistan, Afghanistan Launches New Export Route To India Through Chabahar Port PM Modi (L), President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (C), Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (R) (Source: @NHSahibzada/Twitter)

In a major boost to regional connectivity, the land locked Afghanistan on Sunday (24 February) formally launched exports to India through the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran, reports NDTV.

You can also read this in Hindi- भारत-अफगानिस्तान संबंध पाकिस्तान पर निर्भर नहीं- चाबहार बंदरगाह से निर्यात

The first shipment of 570 tonnes comprising of dried fruits, textiles, carpets, and other goods in 23 trucks was inaugurated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at a ceremony in the western Nimroz province. Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Vinay Kumar was among those present at the ceremony. The consignment is bound for Mumbai.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who attended a special ceremony on 24 February in the western city of Zaranj to mark the event, said the exports through the Iranian port on the Indian Ocean will help connect "hundreds of villages and millions of" Afghans to the outside world.

Addressing the gathering, Ghani added that with the opening of the Chabahar route, Afghanistan’s exports will double to $2 billion from the current $1 billion over the next one year.

“Today, Nimroz is turning from a deprived province into a key province,” Ghani said as he spoke about the importance of the Chabahar Port for Nimroz.

Ghani directed relevant institutions to start work on improving Nimroz from a third-grade province to a second-grade province. “Afghanistan is no longer a landlocked country; it is the heart of Asia,” he said, adding that his country was turning from an importer to an exporting country.

The Indian envoy said Afghanistan’s exports to India have increased by 40 per cent after the launch of air corridor between Kabul and New Delhi in 2017. He also highlighted the importance of the Chabahar Port for regional integration and strengthening of the Afghan economy.

Inaugurated in 2017 and been built largely by India, Chabahar Port is Iran's only oceanic port, providing Afghanistan with direct sea access and will serve as a key supply route. The India-Iran joint venture provides New Delhi a critical transport link to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan, to trade with Central Asia.

Most of Afghanistan's imports and exports currently go through Pakistan. Kabul has long accused Islamabad of harbouring the Afghan Taliban terrorists within its borders.

Last year in February, Iran said it had agreed to lease operational control of Chabahar to India for 18 months. India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) formally took over operations at Chabahar Port. In June, Road Transport, Shipping and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari has promised that India will make the port fully operational by 2019.

In November, US State Department said it that it was exempting Chabahar port from sanctions in recognition of its importance to Afghanistan.

A US State Department spokesman had said that exemption in sanction was in line with President Donald Trump's South Asia strategy of providing ongoing support of Afghanistan's economic growth and development as well as recognition of US’s close partnership with India.

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