The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Special economic zone for Afghanistan at Chabahar Port; opportunities and challenges

The establishment of a special economic zone for Afghanistan at Chabahar Port is undoubtedly good news for traders, particularly Afghan traders as it helps them reduce Afghanistan’s dependency on Karachi and Wagah ports. Besides, the establishment of this special economic zone will reportedly lead to an increased volume of trade between Afghanistan and Iran. Nevertheless, there are both opportunities and challenges ahead. Firstly, the full operation of Chabahar Port can create a large number of opportunities for Afghanistan and the region, meaning that Afghanistan will become a connecting point between Central and South Asia. Besides, the investment of $35 million by Af ghanistan at Chabahar Port shows that the Islamic Emirate is committed to leading the country towards economic development and changing Afghanistan to a connecting point between countries in the region. In addition to these opportunities benefiting Afghanistan, there are also some challenges ahead. There is an English proverb ‘do not put all your eggs in one basket’, meaning that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as one could lose everything. As Iran has been facing with various international sanctions for many years, the country welcomes any small and big investment at its Chabahar Port. When Pakistan and China started investment in the construction of Gwadar Port in 2002, Iran asked India to invest at Chabahar Port, but construction on the port was delayed due to U.S. sanctions. The country is still facing with U.S. sanctions. Despite of the U.S. sanctions on Iran, India jumped and started investment in Chabahar Port as India is considered as the U.S.’s partner in the region. India has been able to convince the U.S. to somehow lift parts of its sanctions or be flexible in this area. For the time being, it seems that Chabahar Port is beneficial for Afghanistan and Afghan traders, but in the longterm, there is no guarantee of increasing trade between Afghanistan and other countries via this port as Iran might use it as a tool to somehow exert pressure on Afghanistan in future or put some serious conditions or might side-line Afghanistan after the port fully operates. Iran might connect South Asia to Central Asia through Ashgabat and Chabahar Port as there is already infrastructure in this region. There is also the Ashgabat Agreement signed in 2011 between Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and later India also joined the agreement. In addition to this, in 2022 and 2023, India, Iran and Russia connected the port’s International North-South transportation corridor Chabahar, which has been also welcomed and praised by the Islamic Emirate. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate should not concentrate all efforts and resources in this area as it could lose everything. Afghanistan should not be fully dependent on one country or two as no country can be a permanent enemy and friend of one country; therefore, good to have interaction with all countries in the region and world based on national interests. In the meantime, the Islamic Emirate by making use of its active diplomacy should join any economic agreements signed between countries in the region. Muhibullah Mayar

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.