September 11, 2017 - Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani has asked India to expedite the development of strategic port of Chabahar in Sistan-Baluchestan Province to bolster a trade route for landlocked Central Asian countries.
The port would allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan by sea. Pakistan currently does not permit India to transport through its territory to Afghanistan, AP reported.
Last year, India committed up to $500 million for the development of Chabahar port along with associated roads and railroads.
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday that India would speed up the port development and begin supplying wheat to Afghanistan within weeks.
In August, Afghan news agency Wadsam announced that the Iranian government is offering huge discounts on customs duties at Chabahar port to attract more Afghan traders.
Wadsam quoted the Economic Attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Kabul Mohammadreza Karimzadeh as saying that Iran is offering an 80-percent discount in export tariffs and a 75-percent discount on import duties to Afghan traders using Chabahar.
Tehran, New Delhi and Kabul signed a trilateral agreement to develop Chabahar in Tehran in May 2016, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Iran.
The deal stipulates the development and operation of two terminals and three berths at the port with cargo handling capacities for 10 years.
Based on the agreement, Iran is to provide land in Chabahar Special Economic Zone to Indian companies for setting up petrochemical, fertilizer and other gas-based industries.
India has also agreed to build a 500-km railroad from Chabahar to Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, close to the Afghan border. India's state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan.
After connecting Chabahar to Zahedan, the railroad will be linked to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Hence, when the Afghan cargo arrives in Zahedan, it can be transported via a 1,380-km railroad to Chabahar and then shipped to India.
A review of trade between Iran and Afghanistan over the past decade shows the neighboring country has mainly been an importer of Iranian goods.
Iran's exports to Afghanistan have been on a general uptrend since the fiscal 2005-6, topping at $3 billion in 2012-13. Exports decreased slightly in 2013-14 and the following year, but bounced back to its peak last year (March 2016-17).