News ID: 203973
Published: 0340 GMT November 07, 2017

Second Indian ship with wheat for Afghanistan docks in Iran

Second Indian ship with wheat for Afghanistan docks in Iran

Iran announced that a second ship with a major wheat consignment for Afghanistan arrived in the southeastern port of Chabahar which is gradually emerging as a key transit point in a corridor bypassing Pakistan.

The ship — carrying a cargo 110,000 tons of wheat in 655 containers — reached Chabahar Port from western Indian port of Kandla on Tuesday morning, Press TV reported.

Chabahar hosted the first ship with 15,000 tons of wheat last Wednesday in a move that officially launched a new multimodal transit corridor from India to Afghanistan via Iran.

New Delhi plans to send seven shipments of wheat to Afghanistan — all on a grant basis — through Chabahar by the end of January, the media reported.

The cargoes are expected to be loaded on thousands of trucks for onward transportation to western Afghanistan.

The shipments are meant to demonstrate the route's viability and the plan is to broaden the cargo flow before the port becomes fully operational by the end of next year, Reuters quoted Indian officials as saying.

Indian officials earlier praised the opening of the new corridor between the three countries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi writing on Twitter that it "marks a new chapter in regional cooperation and connectivity".

The new route would create a unique opportunity for India to send goods to landlocked Afghanistan through a safe route. It would to the same effect enable Afghan merchants to export their commodities — mainly fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and minerals — to global markets through Chabahar.

India signed a deal with Iran in 2003 to develop Chabahar through an investment that could amount to $500 million.

An Indian government source said India Global Ports Ltd. (IGPL) — a company set up by the government to lead the Chabahar project — had held talks with Iranian authorities to begin interim operations.

In August, IGPL applied for permission to establish a company to run the port, Reuters quoted an unnamed source as saying. The plan is for IGPL to build two new terminals, one for container vessels and one for multipurpose ships.

After some delay, IGPL awarded contracts last month for port construction equipment such as cranes, the source said. Iran, meanwhile, had completed the construction of a jetty.

"We are moving slowly, but there is movement on the port development despite US-Iran relations deteriorating," said Meena Singh Roy, an expert on India-Iran ties at the government-funded Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses.

"Things are moving quite well and as planned," Saurabh Kumar, Indian ambassador to Iran, told Reuters in an email.

India has framed its involvement in Chabahar's development as primarily about establishing a gateway to Afghanistan, more than Iran itself, Indian officials and a Western diplomatic source said.

"In general, I get the impression that conservative analysts in (Washington) DC have accepted the fact that India will maintain some form of relationship with Iran," said Jeff Smith, a South Asia expert at The Heritage Foundation in Washington.

"They recognize that for India, Iran is more about a transport corridor to Afghanistan and that whatever space India evacuates there will be filled by China."

Located on the confluence of the Indian Ocean and the Sea of Oman in southeastern Iran, Chabahar is India's first foreign port project. Once completed, the project would enable India to send its goods Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond.

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