Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 18th, 2018

Chabahar Agreement and Afghan-Indian Relations

President Ashraf Ghani, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a three-way transit agreement on Iran’s southern port of Chabahar on Monday May 23, 2016. India will invest about $500 million for developing the project and it is going to benefit from it to a large extent. It will provide India an access to the land-locked countries of central Asia. But, it will benefit the region, at the same time.
Indian Prime Minister Modi said in a statement, “We want to link to the world, but connectivity among ourselves is also a priority. The bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port and related infrastructure, and availability of about $500m from India for this purpose, is an important milestone. This major effort would boost economic growth in the region.”
This port will be economically beneficial for Iran as well. After the bans have been lifted, Iran is seeking to strengthen and speed up economic ties and activities. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a press conference, “With our joint investments in Chabahar, we can connect India through a reliable route to Afghanistan and countries in Central Asia… The agreement today is not only an economic document: It’s also a political and a regional one.”
From Afghanistan’s perspective, this will allow trade and robust business activities through its land and will also provide better access to Indian trade opportunities. Afghanistan is expected to have sea-land access through the port by the end of this year as the work on the port already began by a joint venture of Kandla Port Trust (KPT) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) last year. Access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway can be created from Chabahar port using the existing Iranian road network and the Zaranj-Delaram road, constructed by India in 2009. But most importantly it will pave the way for further economic cooperation with India and Iran. As, President Ghani said in a statement, “Our will starts from Chabahar today, but its end will be an all-out comprehensive development and economic-cultural cooperation.”
India seeks to expand its economic presence in Afghanistan in the post withdrawal era. In particular, it wants to improve transport connectivity and economic collaboration with countries in Central and South Asia. More such projects are likely to come up, which includes setting up Iron ore mines, a 6 MTPA steel plant (by SAIL—Steel Authority of India Limited), an 800 MW power plant, Hydro-electric power projects, transmission lines, roads etc.
Afghanistan's Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan -- Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. From Chabahar, the existing Iranian road network can link up to Zaranj in Afghanistan, about 883 kms from the port. The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan's Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan -- Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Undoubtedly, India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process in Afghanistan. India's extensive developmental assistance program, which equals around $2 billion, is an indicator of its abiding commitment to peace, tranquility and prosperity in Afghanistan during this critical juncture of security and governance transition. This makes India one of the leading donor nations to Afghanistan, and by far the largest among the regional countries.
India seems to believe that development of Afghanistan requires reliable and lasting investment in Afghanistan that can help it exploit its natural resource properly. Therefore, India stands at the forefront of the promotion of investment in Afghanistan and a consortium of public and private Indian companies has been selected to make one of the largest investments in the country's mining sector, in the Hajigak iron ore reserves.
India also realizes the fact that there can be stability in Afghanistan only if all the major actors and countries have a stake in its stability, development and growth. Realizing this India has been increasing efforts to attract regional and trans-regional investment into Afghanistan that provides a reliable alternative to the dominant narrative of extremism and offers job opportunities to its population, by initiating events like the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in June 2012. Recognizing that the region holds the key to peace in Afghanistan, India has an important role in confidence building measures in the region in accordance to the Istanbul Process.
It also helped initiate a dialogue on Afghanistan through different platforms like the Afghanistan-India-US trilateral and the Afghanistan-India-Iran trilateral platforms that seek to bring together international partners with disparate worldviews to follow the common goal of securing peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. India also expressed its assistance to international cooperation on Afghanistan at the UN and at various international conferences that are focused on the future of Afghanistan, including the seminal Tokyo Developmental Conference in July 2012.
In the post withdrawal Afghanistan, as there are security, financial and political challenges, Afghanistan would require developing strong economic ties with the regional countries and as India plays a dominant role in the region, it can support Afghanistan in achieving such an objective. Moreover, in the times of challenges and troubles Afghan people and government would require true support and assistance; therefore, India’s support for Afghanistan will of immense importance and the people of Afghanistan also realize this fact and they wish that India should keep its assistance continue until it is able to stand on its own.