The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.
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Chabahar port: Afghanistan’s gateway to global trade

By: Hashmat Nasiri

Chabahar Port, situat ed in southeastern Iran on the Gulf of Oman, has a rich history that spans centuries. Chabahar has been a significant trading port since ancient times, dating back to at least the Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BCE). During the Sassanian Empire (224–651 CE), Chabahar continued to flourish as a trading hub, connecting Persia with the Indian subcontinent and other regions. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers established a presence in the region, including along the coasts of Iran and the Indian Ocean. Chabahar was part of the broader trade networks that emerged during the Age of exploration, with Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders vying for control and influence. In the 20th century, Chabahar continued to be an important port, particularly for Iran’s trade with India and Afghanistan. The port gained strategic significance during the IranIraq War (1980-1988) when other major Iranian ports, such as Bandar Abbas, were targeted. In recent decades, especially after the turn of the millennium, there has been a renewed focus on developing Chabahar as a major international port, particularly for trade with India and as a gate way to Central Asia. Iran, India, and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement in 2016 to develop Chabahar Port as a transportation and trade corridor. This agreement aimed to bypass Pakistan and provide a shorter route for goods between India and Central Asia. The development projects include the construction of new berths, terminals, and infrastructure to facilitate trade, as well as road and rail links connecting Chabahar to Afghanistan and beyond. Overall, Chabahar port’s history reflects its long-standing role as a center of trade and maritime activity, with modern developments aimed at enhancing its strategic and economic significance. Chabahar port, nestled along the southeastern coast of Iran, has emerged as a crucial strategic asset not just for Iran but also for neighboring Afghanistan. With its strategic location and vast potential, Chabahar port has become a focal point in regional geopolitics and economic development efforts. Chabahar port holds immense strategic and economic significance for several reasons. Situated on the Gulf of Oman, Chabahar port provides a direct maritime route to the Indian Ocean. This location is advantageous for trade, particularly for landlocked countries like Afghanistan, which can access international markets more efficiently through Chabahar. Afghanistan heavily relies on Pakistani ports like Karachi for its imports and exports. However, Chabahar offers an alternative route, reducing Afghanistan’s dependence on a single corridor and enhancing its economic independence. Chabahar port facilitates trade diversification by providing access to India, Central Asia, and beyond. This diversification is crucial for Afghanistan’s economic stability and growth, allowing it to engage with multiple trading partners. Afghanistan plays a vital role in the successful implementation and utilization of Chabahar port: Trade Facilitation: Afghanistan stands to gain significantly from Chabahar’s efficient trade routes. By utilizing Chabahar, Afghanistan can streamline its trade processes, reduce transit costs, and enhance the competitiveness of its exports. Infrastructure Connectivity: Afghanistan’s connectivity infrastructure, such as roads and railways, is integral to the effective utilization of Chabahar port. Efforts to improve and expand these connectivity networks are essential for seamless trade flow through Chabahar. Political Support: Afghanistan’s political support is crucial for sustaining and advancing the Chabahar project. Continued diplomatic efforts and collaboration with Iran and India are necessary to overcome challenges and ensure the port’s long-term success. Regional and global connectivity: Since Afghanistan is a landlocked country and does not have direct access to international markets, the Chabahar port will provide an opportunity for Afghanistan to gain effective and continuous access to regional and international markets through this port. Addressing challenges and maximizing opportunities To effectively address the challenges and maximize the opportunities presented by Chabahar port, concerted efforts and collaboration among key stakeholders are imperative. 1. Geopolitical Stability: Diplomatic initiatives aimed at fostering stability and cooperation among regional powers are critical. Multilateral forums and dialogues can facilitate constructive engagement and help resolve potential conflicts that may affect Chabahar’s operations. 2. Infrastructure Development: Continued investment in infrastructure is key to unlocking Chabahar Port’s full potential. This includes not only port facilities but also the development of road and rail networks connecting Chabahar to Afghanistan’s major cities and beyond. International partnerships and financing mechanisms can play a vital role in accelerating infrastructure development efforts. 3. Security Cooperation: Collaborative security measures, including intelligence sharing and joint patrols, are essential to safeguarding Chabahar’s maritime routes and transit corridors. Afghanistan, Iran, and India, along with other stakeholders, must work closely to address security threats effectively. 4. Trade Promotion and Investment: Promoting Chabahar port as a trade and investment hub requires targeted initiatives. This includes marketing campaigns to raise awareness among businesses about the benefits of using Chabahar, establishing special economic zones or industrial parks near the port, and offering incentives such as tax breaks or streamlined customs procedures to attract investment. 5. Capacity Building: Enhancing the capacity of Afghan institutions and businesses to effectively utilize Chabahar port is crucial. This involves training programs, technology transfer initiatives, and knowledge-sharing platforms to build expertise in logistics, supply chain management, and international trade practices. 6. Environmental Sustainability: Sustainable practices must be integrated into Chabahar port’s operations to minimize environmental impact. This includes measures to reduce carbon emissions, manage waste responsibly, and protect marine ecosystems in the port vicinity. By addressing these aspects comprehensively, Chabahar port can emerge as a thriving trade gateway, benefitting not only Afghanistan but the entire region. The vision of Chabahar as a catalyst for economic growth, regional connectivity, and stability can be realized through sustained commitment, collaboration, and strategic planning. In conclusion, Chabahar port represents a transformative opportunity for Afghanistan, offering enhanced trade connectivity, economic diversification, and regional integration. Afghanistan’s active participation and cooperation are essential for realizing the full potential of Chabahar port and leveraging it as a gateway to global trade and prosperity.

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.