External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj along with Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani and Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif through a joint video conference on Sunday flagged off the first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan circumventing Pakistan, which has been refusing to provide a corridor. Flagged off from the Kandla port in Gujarat with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani looking on through video conferencing, the shipment will "pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan", the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said.
India will donate 1.1 million tonnes of wheat every year to Afghanistan for the next three years as part of Indian initiative to mitigate poverty in Afghanistan.
The MEA statement said that the two Foreign Ministers welcomed the fact that this is the first shipment that would go to Afghanistan through Chabahar after the trilateral agreement to develop the port as a transport and transit corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian and Afghan Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Ashraf Ghani in May past year.
Mid-June, India and Afghanistan launched an "air-freight corridor" over Pakistani airspace to allow to-and-fro transportation of goods as Islamabad continued to block Indian access to Afghan markets via land.
It may be recalled Pakistan is an obstacle to the direct India-Afghan trade route that passes through Pakistani territory.
EAM Swaraj said, "The wheat that is leaving the Indian shores today, is a gift from the people of India to our Afghan brethren".
"This shows the convergence between the ancient civilisations of India, Afghanistan and Iran to spur unhindered flow of commerce and trade throughout the region", she said in a press release.
He also supported India's development assistance to Afghanistan.
"The people of India, Afghanistan and Iran have been connected through centuries; shared commonalities of art and culture, ideas and knowledge; language and traditions".
The use of Chabahar port is seen as a major boost to India's efforts to connect with Central Asia and Russian Federation, and it could facilitate Indian imports of iron ore, sugar and rice as well as crude oil from Iran.
Chabahar, the deep-water port in the Sistan and Baluchestan province of Iran, is 72km from Gawadar, a similar port developed by the Chinese in the Pakistan province of Balochistan. It was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Iran in May 2016.
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