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First consignment of wheat from India reaches Kabul

| | New Delhi | in Sunday Pioneer

The first consignment of 2400 tonnes of wheat from India arrived in Kabul on Saturday. The wheat is part of the 30,000 tonnes shipped via Chabahar.  The consignment was welcomed by Afghan Minister for Agriculture Nasir Ahmed Durrani and Charge d'Affairs of Indian embassy in Kabul, Alok Ranjan Jha.

India and Afghanistan have started using sea and air routes as an alternative for the land for transfer of goods after Pakistan started blocking the land route and created problems for Afghan trucks carrying fruit and other materials to India.

Truckers from Afghanistan had to unload the entire consignment at Torkham and Chaman on Afghan-Pakistan border from where the goods were loaded onto Pakistani trucks that carried the goods further till India-Pakistan border at Attari-Wagah. Besides, often the Torkham and Chaman borders are closed for days together causing enormous loss to the Afghan traders. Most of the items imported to India from Afghanistan are fruits that perish due to border delays. In 2016 Pakistan blocked 1.7 lakh tones of wheat and medicines from India that was sent as humanitarian aid to overcome food shortage in Afghanistan.

Citing a bilateral trade pact between the two countries, Pakistan had made it clear to Afghanistan that it can use the Wagah transit route to export goods to India and not import. In return Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had threatened to block Pakistan access to Central Asia and on October last year even banned entry of Pak trucks into his country after the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Agreement expired. Both India and Afghanistan have been seeking inclusion of India in the trade agreement but Pakistan is not keen.

Now with the first phase of Chabahar Port open, the sea route is more economical to send goods to the landlocked country Afghanistan. India is investing $500 million in Chabahar port that will help it connect directly to the Central Asia. In addition the Air Cargo Corridor connects Kabul to Mumbai and New Delhi.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj along with her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani had in October 2017 through a video conferencing flagged off the first shipment of wheat for Afghanistan. The wheat travelled from India's Kandla port to Iran's Chabahar port from where it was taken to Afghanistan.

“The shipment is part of commitment made by the Government of India to supply 1.1 million tonnes of wheat for the people of Afghanistan on grant basis…The wheat shipment is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan. It will open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries (India, Iran, Afghanistan) and the wider region,” Ministry of External Affairs had said in a statement at the time of flagging off ceremony.




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