Pakistan has been blocking Indian flights to fly to Afghanistan, a move which is bound to evoke tensions between two nuclear-armed neighbours. Pakistan’s civil aviation authority recently denied passage to SpiceJet cargo flights to Afghanistan at-least three times in one week according to Indian media reports.
New Delhi has taken up the issue with Islamabad, with the Ministry of External Affairs sending a note verbale to Pakistan. The development comes even as India has been trying to get access to landlocked Afghanistan and bypass Pakistan.
The India-Afghanistan air corridor, launched in 2017, connects Afghanistan with Delhi and Mumbai and completely taking out Pakistan from the picture. India backed Chabahar port also helps New Delhi to bypass Pakistan completely and trade with Afghanistan.
Speaking at the first ever India Central Asia Afghanistan Dialogue in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on January 13, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said, “Joint efforts of India, Iran and Afghanistan have led to the development of the Chabahar Port in Iran as a viable and operational trade route to connect to Afghanistan and potentially to Central Asia. Chabahar provides a shining example of what strong partnership can achieve to overcome any obstacles.”
India has already sent a very substantial quantity of wheat to Afghanistan using the Chabahar port.
India took over the operations of a part of Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar in Iran last month. On December 24, 2018, India, Iran and Afghanistan jointly inaugurated the office of the Indian SPV – India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ), at Chabahar. The physical take-over of the terminal area, cargo handling equipment and office building was completed by December 29, 2018.
Commercial operations began at IPGCFZ with the arrival of a vessel. A Cyprus registered bulk carrier had arrived at Chabahar with 72458 MT of corn cargo. The vessel MV MACHERAS berthed at the terminal at 0130 hrs on December 30, 2018.
Central Asia countries have also lauded Chabahar. Uzbek ambassador to India Farhod Arziev has lauded the project saying a railway project in Afghanistan can connect Uzbekistan with Chabahar.
Iran is holding Chabahar Day International Conference on February 26 at the Chabahar port to give an overview of the port to the world. India is also planning to develop Chabahar-Zahedan railway link that will link Zaranj-Delaram road built by India in Afghanistan and bring Iran and Afghanistan closer.
India plays a significant role as a development partner with its assistance exceeding $3 billion. New Delhi is Afghanistan’s largest donor in the region.