The Zeranj-Deleram highway and Chahbahar port figure in talks with Afghanistan

The Chahbahar-Milak-Zeranj-Delaram highway a 135 km vital link for India

The Dollar Business Bureau

At Amritsar today, the PM in his inaugural address at the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul process on Afghanistan, reaffirmed India's commitment to helping Afghanistan achieve peace and economic stability.He said, the theme of the conference, “ Addressing challenges; Achieving prosperity” is a well-intended one as India and Afghanistan have together won some important challenges though much remains to be done.Afghanistan provides a vital link of connectivity between South and Central Asia and India intends to use it as a positive connection to reach out to other countries in the region. We cannot deny that the more connected Afghanistan is with the regional arteries of trade, capital and markets, the more assured would be its economic growth and progress, the PM stressed.Referring to the development of the Zeranj-Deleram highway and India-Afghanistan-Iran cooperation on Chahbahar, the Prime Minister stressed these would help Afghanistan link its economy with centres of strong economic growth in South Asia and beyond.

It should be recalled that India had signed a series of 12 MoU's with Iran and Afghanistan in May 2016, that centred upon the Port of Chahbahar. The trilateral transit agreement signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan allows Indian goods to reach Afghanistan through Iran. It links ports on the western coast of India to the Chabahar port and covers the road and rail links between Chabahar and the Afghan border. But most importantly it reduces nearly 30% of the transit cost for Indian traders.

The opening up of the port will ensure a three-fold jump in trade between India and Afghanistan. Indian trading interests in iron in the Hajigak Mines can also be safeguarded through the development of the port. In addition, the port will allow India to access Iran's crude oil reserves of over 150 billion barrels and over 1187 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.  It will allow India to gain access to 30 billion barrels of oil and 265 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in Turkmenistan and nearly 680 tonnes of uranium and almost 37,000 million tonnes of coal reserves in Kazakhstan.

The Chahbahar-Milak-Zeranj-Delaram highway is a 135 km long vital and strategic link for India as it gives direct access to Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries bypassing Pakistan. The highway creates North-South transport corridors linking the Indian sub-continent to the landlocked Central Asia. The Chahbahar port will also help India to meet its maximum trade potential, which according to estimates is around $450-500 billion, with other Central Asian countries. If the development of the port goes according to plan, India will benefit from the creation of the new trade routes stretching from the northern reaches of Central Asia down to Chahbahar in southern Iran. It will be a vital port station for global imports from the Gulf and also act as a gateway to Europe and the Middle East for exports coming from Central Asia and Afghanistan.

In his address, the PM also detailed that India is making progress in developing plans in the utilisation of the additional $1 billion earmarked by India for capacity and capability building in Afghanistan. It will extend to areas like water management, health, infrastructure, energy and skill development. As India implements its additional commitments, we are open to work with other like-minded partners for the development of Afghanistan.

Sheela Mamidenna - Dec 03, 2016 12:00 IST