India has for the first time used the Iranian port of Chabahar to send a consignment of wheat to Afghanistan, circumventing the land route via Pakistan, a press release from the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said, adding that the country plans similar transfers in the coming months as well.
''The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternative, 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 and Afghanistan) and the wider region,'' said the MEA statement.
The consignment was flagged off by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani and their Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif through a joint video conference.
The statement said Sunday's transfer was part of India's commitment to send 1.1 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan on grant basis. India plans to deliver the entire quantity in six different instalments over the coming months.
India would continue supporting Afghanistan's reconstruction, capacity-building and socio-economic development, including under the framework of the New Development Partnership, Swaraj said
She also renewed India's commitment to working closely with regional and international partners to bring peace, security, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan.
''I congratulate Afghanistan and Iran on Indian wheat shipment being flagged off from Kandla to Afghanistan through Chabahar,'' Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
The move is significant as it indicates India resolve to deliver on its regional commitment through partnership with Iran, despite Tehran's ongoing tension with the United States.
During US secretary of State Tillerson's 24-25 October visit, he had noted India's close cooperation with Iran on the use of Chabahar and said that despite bilateral problems with Tehran, the United States had nothing against ''legitimate business'' with Iran.
He also supported India's development assistance to Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani, who was in the capital at the same time, had urged Pakistan to allow transit of goods from India through its territory.
The use of Chabahar for wheat transhipment indicates the firming up of an alternative route to extend necessary support to Afghanistan, in the absence of overland transit rights by Pakistan.
''The two foreign ministers welcomed the fact that this is the first shipment that would be going to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port after Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed during the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Iran in May 2016,'' the MEA said.
During the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May 2016, a three-way deal on establishing the International Transport and Transit Corridor was inked.