India to get Free Railway Access to Afghanistan via Iran by next month!

Amid border tension with Pakistan and China, India got a big shot in the arm as it is going to get a Railway access to Afghanistan via Iran. A senior official in Islamic Republic of Iran Railways said the railway from Khaf in Iran to Herat in Afghanistan will become operational in three weeks.

Director General of the Organization for International Affairs of Iran Railways Abbas Nazari said, given its significance to Iran and India, the railway will come on stream before it completely reaches Herat.

Iran had already constructed the stretch from Khaf to Shematigh border inside Iran, which was previously inaugurated by the Iranian minister of roads and urban planning; “meanwhile, 30 kilometers of the total 64 kilometers connecting the border point to Herat will become operation in the coming three weeks.”

The projected Khaf-Herat railway is about 140 kilometers (km), of which 60 km is funded by the Iranian side and the rest is financed by Afghanistan. Khaf-Herat line is just a small part of a much bigger project and the two countries plan to build some part of the East-West railway corridor which extends from China to Europe through Iran and Afghanistan.

Iran and Afghanistan have signed an MOU with five other countries which are in the way of East-West corridor and further negotiations are still ongoing in this regard.

With the establishment of East-West corridor, Iranian railway will have the potential for transferring over 100 million tons of goods through the country in the next 10 years.

Iran’s first consignment to be exported to Afghanistan consists of cement though other products like gasoline and gas oil will also be carried to the neighboring country via the new route. Nazari estimated that Iran’s exports to Afghanistan through the railroad will reach five million tons per year.

Toughing upon the significance of the railway for India, he underlined that opening of Khaf-Herat railway will benefit Indians since they are a major exporter of a variety of products to Afghanistan; “Indian vessels, upon unloading shipments in Bandar Abbas, will transfer cargo or bulk containers to Khaf via Bandar Abbas-Bafgh railroad and later to Afghanistan through the new path.”

Manish Sharma