The Unfulfilled Dream of India-Afghanistan on the Way of Chabahar, Wheat That Never Reached Kabul!
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 25 Nov , 2022

What Is the Chabahar Tripartite Project Agreement?

The Chabahar trilateral economic project agreement was signed in Tehran in 2016 in the presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fugitive Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, and former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his country would spend 500 million dollars on the development of Chabahar and build a pier. But finally, it was decided that Iran would use its internal resources to develop the Chabahar port infrastructure, and the Indians would invest 85 million dollars to provide port equipment and take over the Chabahar port operator for ten years.

The Chabahar Port-Nimroz Province of Afghanistan

Chabahar port is located in Balochistan, a province southeast of Iran. Based on the strategic geography of this port. It is located on the Gulf of Oman coast and close to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which is part of the Indian Ocean. This port has an area of more than 14 thousand hectares, and many ships can use it to pass and transit through. Also, Chabahar’s economic strategic port is an economic ring between India, Afghanistan, and Iran, located in the southeast of Iran and close to the southwestern provinces of Afghanistan, including the province of Nimroz. Nimroz is one of Afghanistan’s provinces, located in the southwest of this country. It lies to the east of the Sistan and Balochistan Provinces of Iran and north of Balochistan, Pakistan, bordering Farah and Helmand.

The Chabahar Port Agreement

About six years have passed since the signing of the agreement to establish the India-Afghanistan trade corridor “known as the Chabahar Port Agreement.” According to this agreement, Chabahar port was supposed to become a new gateway for the transit corridor, and a connecting point between different countries, including India and Afghanistan, the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It will also help to expand regional and economic cooperation between India, Afghanistan, and Iran effectively. Of course, implementing this agreement, which was from the port of Chabahar, with the participation and investment of Indian businessmen, could lead to an increase in employment and earning income from transit for Iran as well.

The INSTC Agreement

On the other hand, progress and acceleration in this development between three countries, Afghanistan, India, and Iran, is the most powerful factor for progress in implementing agreements that Afghanistan has with other countries. The South-North International Transport Corridor Agreement, or (Nostrak) was signed on September 21, 2000, between the three countries of Iran, India, and Russia. Currently, the members of this corridor have increased by accepting ten more members, including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, Oman, and Syria. In this corridor, the ports of Shahid Beheshti will become a critical passage for goods from South Asia and India to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Russia.

Meanwhile, it is said that through the South-North Corridor, the cost of transporting goods and containers from the countries of the Indian Ocean and South Asia to Russia and Northern Europe is 30% cheaper and several days faster than the Suez Canal. Despite all these opportunities in Chabahar port, recently, due to some reasons, we saw its position in transit, import and export routes decline. With the Taliban gaining power in Afghanistan, it has caused the interruption of regular and direct services of container shipping lines.

Reduction of Tripartite Activities in Chabahar Port

Therefore, the change of positions of the Taliban group against the Indian government and the transit route through Iran, the failure of Iran’s plans to connect Chabahar port to the national railway network. These reasons caused the North-South Corridor to remain incomplete, including the Chabahar project and the trade corridor agreement between the three countries. The noteworthy point is those container activities, which were considered an important and influential indicator in the effective cooperation between Iran and India for the development of Chabahar port in the form of a south-north corridor, as well as a tripartite agreement between Iran, India, and Afghanistan, have decreased significantly.

The Negative Effects of APTTA Contract on Chabahar Port Projects

The adverse effects of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) on Chabahar port projects were signed in 2011 between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Trucks carrying Afghan commercial goods are allowed to export Afghanistan products to the big markets of India and China through Karachi and Gwadar ports in Pakistan. Pakistan is always looking for the destruction and non-operation of the Chabahar port project between India, Afghanistan, and Iran.

The Lajurd and TAPI Project

The Lajurd agreement is one of the other active transit agreements between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. This agreement was signed to reduce transit and trade barriers and develop joint customs operations between countries to facilitate member countries access to the European market. The TAPI agreement or (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline is considered one of the other vital agreements in the region. The most important energy transmission line passes through Afghanistan, where Turkmenistan’s gas is transferred to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan.

Millions of Dollars Spent on an Unfulfilled Dream

Despite all these delays and problems in the dream of developing Chabahar port, India has spent 135 million dollars for the construction of Zaranj and Dalaram road, which connected Nimroz province of Afghanistan with Chabahar port. The construction of this road was completed in 2009. On the other hand, Iran has also invested 340 million dollars in Chabahar commercial zone. Therefore, if India and Afghanistan do not show interest in the vital projects of Chabahar port, all these efforts and expenses will be wasted.

Tripartite Talks Without Afghanistan’s Presence

Despite heavy investment in infrastructure and modern unloading and loading equipment in the Chabahar project between India, Afghanistan, and Iran, When the first shipment of wheat donated by India to Afghanistan arrived at Chabahar port, it took more than 20 days to unload instead of 24 hours. Meanwhile, India, Iran, and Uzbekistan were going to meet each other last year to discuss the issues facing the North-South International Corridor project, which is part of the Chabahar Agreement. Last year, India proposed the formation of a quadrilateral working group with the presence of Iran, India, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan to discuss the joint use of Chabahar port.

Therefore, after the Afghanistan government collapsed the hand of the Taliban group, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India officials announced that although the Chabahar port project between India and Afghanistan is still a priority for India, Afghanistan will not be present in the next Chabahar port negotiations. In this report, Indian officials announced that Afghanistan would not be part of the quadrilateral group of India, Iran, and Uzbekistan to use the Chabahar port in the southeast of Iran due to the ruling of the Taliban group in Afghanistan.

The Unfulfilled Dream of India-Afghanistan on the Way of Chabahar

Afghanistan’s non-participation in this project will stop sending goods, humanitarian aid, and wheat from Chabahar to Afghanistan. On the other hand, the constant diplomatic tensions with Pakistan caused Islamabad to limit the access of New Delhi and Kabul to each other through Pakistan territory. Nevertheless, Afghanistan was an essential factor in the Chabahar negotiations because the goal of creating a multilateral trade route by India and Iran was to get Afghanistan a free trade route without dependence on Islamabad. Finally, it was a long-standing dream of India and the people of Afghanistan, which is now faltering. With these fluctuations, wheat will never be sent to Kabul through Chabahar port, a dream that will remain unfulfilled between India and Afghanistan.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Asadullah Jafari “Pezhman”

is a Translator, Columnist, and a Former Member of the Afghan National Army. He Mostly Writing and Translating on Afghanistan and the Middle East Issues.

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