Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister asked India on Monday to expedite development of Chabahar port in Iran to bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass Pakistan. The port would allow India to transport goods to Afghanistan by sea. Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani also asked India to expand an airfreight corridor introduced between the two countries in June to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.
India, Afghanistan and Iran are free to enter into any understanding as per their national interests but Pakistan too should take necessary measures to safeguard its interests in the face of growing geo-strategic and economic moves in the region. It is unfortunate that despite blanket permission given to Afghanistan for transit trade through Pakistan, Kabul is tilting more towards Delhi than Islamabad. It is an open secret that Afghan Transit Trade has been one of the main causes of smuggling and loss of revenue in Pakistan but the country has not revoked or revised the arrangement for the sake of land-locked Afghanistan. India, Afghanistan and United States have also been pressurising Pakistan to make India part of the transit trade arrangement with Afghanistan but Pakistan has so far not granted permission because of security and economic reasons. No doubt, Pakistan has repeatedly asserted that it does not consider Chabahar as rival to its Gwadar deep seaport but the objective of developmentof Chabahar is, no doubt, to undermine the utility and effectiveness of Gwadar. But it seems our planners and decision-makers are having a deep slumber and not willing to take required measures at the desired pace to make Gwadar port functional at the earliest. The port is there for about a decade but its proper operation is hindered by lack of facilities and road network that would connect it with rest of the country and beyond. CPEC has sparked hopes for creation of necessary infrastructure for the purpose but regrettably it too is becoming victim of negative propaganda campaign and internal political instability. Apart from the built up port, Gwadar has many commercial advantages not only for Pakistan but for regional countries as well, therefore, we should focus our entire attention on completion of missing facilities to take full advantage of pluses of Gwadar