Afghanistan has asked India to expedite work on the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran to help improve trade route for the landlocked country, enabling it have access to global markets.
Currently, Afghanistan relies on Pakistan for trade but Islamabad does not allow New Delhi to transport through its territory.
Last year, India had committed up to $500 million for Chabahar’s development along with associated roads and rail lines.
According to the Associated Press, India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj told Afghanistan that New Delhi would speed up the port’s development and begin supplying wheat within weeks through Chabahar.
Interestingly, the move comes at a time when US President Donald Trump, in his new Afghanistan strategy, had asked New Delhi to do more to help Kabul’s development.
Swaraj’s counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani had also asked India to expand an air freight corridor introduced between the two countries in June so that greater access could be given to Afghan goods for the Indian market.
Swaraj, who hosted her counterpart in New Delhi, told reporters that India and Afghanistan jointly agreed to start a “new development partnership” in keeping with Afghanistan’s priorities.
The Indian external affair’s minister said more than a 100 new development projects would be implemented jointly. She said India will also assist in initiating a drinking water supply project for Kabul, low-cost housing for returning refugees, a water supply network for Charikar city, and a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Swaraj also revealed that India will also help Afghanistan build human resource capacities and skills, especially in education, health, agriculture, energy, administration and resource management sectors.
During the meeting, Rabbani said the two countries reiterated their resolve to strengthen their security and defence cooperation, but did not elaborate.