TEHRAN, Nov. 01 (MNA) – Iran and Afghanistan have been focused on increasing their political and economic relations, in recent years. Afghan peace talks and major mutual economic projects are the means to put bilateral ties on a positive track.
Iran has always been an important and effective neighbor for Afghanistan. Sharing a 900-kilometer joint border, the sides enjoy many linguistic, religious, cultural, social, and economic commonalities.
Considering the cultural, historical, economic, and political relations, it can be said that the Iranians and Afghans are intertwined nations.
Both nations and the governments of the two countries have made good progress in various cooperation sectors over the past 20 years, and the recent meetings held between the Iranian and Afgan senior officials is an introduction to a bright future of Kabul-Tehran ties.
Iran big supporter of peace, stability in Afghanistan
Iran’s role in the Afghan peace process is undeniable and the Islamic Republic of Iran always been a supporter of the government and people of Afghanistan.
Tehran backs all the efforts to maintain Afghanistan’s constitution and government within the framework of the country’s laws and under the aegis of its Islamic establishment. More importantly, sustainable peace, stability, and security in Afghanistan as a neighbor and brother country are of high significance for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As a matter of fact, ensuring the security and stability of Afghanistan can upgrade the country to one of Iran’s most important trading partners. Afghanistan enjoys a cheap and talented workforce, rich mineral resources, as well as raw agricultural and water resources with a thirst for absorbing Iranian investments.
In mid-October, the Head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah made a trip to Tehran and held talks with Iranian officials including FM Zarif and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, President Hassan Rouhani, and Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani.
In all the held meetings, Abdullah appreciated Iran’s support for the Afghan peace process and the continuation of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. He appreciated the Islamic Republic of Iran for its specific attention to the success of peace in Afghanistan.
Abdullah said his country is hopeful that with the support of the Islamic Republic, it will witness the conclusion of its peace talks and the establishment of lasting security and peace within its borders.
Of course, other Afghan officials share the same view with Abdullah. Here are the Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar’s remarks, after his meeting in Tehran with Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in late June 2020, where he expressed his country’s eagerness to expand economic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“We believe that fraternal relations between the two countries can alleviate all common concerns… Afghanistan is emphasizing to continue its ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we laud Iranians for their hospitality and are eager to expand ties with Iran,” Atmar said.
Foreigners’ intervention in Tehran-Kabul mutual ties
Transregional forces and foreigners have repeatedly sought to throw a spanner on the wheel of the two neighbors’ relations.
Over the past two decades, enemies, mainly the US, have applied many plots and made different accusations to create enmity between the people of Afghanistan and Iran but such plots have never been fruitful.
For instance, in one of their latest moves, the western supported media sought to distort the reality about the incidents that took place for Afghan nationals at the joint border with Iran. They claimed that, back in June 2020, Iranian border guards had tortured and thrown as many as 57 Afghans into the Hari River (Harirud) in western Herat province to prevent their illegal entry into Iran.
The US military presence in Afganistan is another issue of debate. Tehran and Kabul are fully aware that Americans only seek to meet their own plans and do not care about the progress and security in Islamic countries and also the West Asia region.
Both sides assert that no ill-intended foreign provocation, such as Washington’s destabilizing military presence in Afghanistan, can undermine Tehran-Kabul close relation.
ran believes the US intervention and presence in Afghanistan has been against the will and the public opinion of this country. The Islamic Republic of Iran even notes that considering his recent moves, the US President Trump seeks his own political and electoral goals in Afghanistan.
Iran safe destination of Afghan refugees
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always stood by the people and government of Afghanistan during four decades of war and insecurity in Afghanistan and warmly received millions of refugees, who had fled the clashes ignited by the US meddling and invasion.
Iran has been dealing with several challenges regarding the presence of Afghan refugees in the country.
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, around 3.5 million Afghans, including almost a million refugees, are living in Iran. As reported, Iran spends a huge cost on Afghan migrants every year in various sectors.
Comprehensive coop. on various sectors
In recent years, the two sides have been working on endorsement of a comprehensive document, which has been prepared in the past five years to cover up bilateral cooperation on political, security, economic, cultural, and social spheres.
They eventually agreed to finalize the document in June 2020 to make major advances in various cooperation sectors. The comprehensive document marks a fundamental development in relations and is expected to activate capacities to expand relations.
Besides the accorded comprehensive document, the two countries are conducting ongoing negotiations to expand further collaboration in other various sectors, including economy, border operations, Afghan nationals, media, security, health, water, and energy.
Iran to focus on exports of technical-engineering services, know-how to Afghanistan
Afghanistan has mainly been an importer of Iranian products. Iran’s present annual exports to Afghanistan hovers around $3billion to$4 billion a year, which is significant considering the current coronavirus pandemic.
As reported, about half of Afghanistan’s imported goods are Iranian and the country has a good capacity to import technical and engineering services.
However, the economic cooperation between the two countries is shifting from the trade sector to a higher level, namely in the technical-engineering field. Iran intends to adopt policies focusing on the transfer of technical knowledge to Afghanistan.
The first exhibition of Iran’s technical and engineering services in the field of water, electricity, and energy was held in Kabul in late September 2020, where more than 75 Iranian companies showcased their capabilities and discussed the partnership with Afghan counterparts. A 120-member delegation of Iranian businessmen in the field of energy and
Iran’s policy in trade with Afghanistan is to upgrade its exports from goods to exports of technical engineering services and know-how.
municipal services attended the three-day event to have talks with the Afghan side during their four-day stay in Afghanistan.
As a matter of fact, the good relations between the two countries have led to the establishment of good trade relations between the businessmen of the two countries, so the exhibition was well received by the people of Afghanistan and various companies.
Energy sector of high interest for expansion of ties
Despite owing abundant natural resources, Afghanistan has not been able to enjoy new technologies due to the ongoing tensions and wars in the country.
Afghanistan’s rich natural resources are awaiting to attract foreign investments in sectors of water and sewage facilities, agricultural services, health facilities, etc. to revive the wounded body of the country from the war years.
The cooperation in the power sectors of water management, renewable energy, electricity, and also the wind energy has been among the most discussed topics between Iranian and Afghan officials. As reported, a joint economic commission is scheduled to be held in Afghanistan in near future in order to operationalize mutual Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) penned in the energy sector.
Iranian Minister of Energy Reza Ardakanian has called for the operationalization of a wind energy production plan in the Iran-Afghanistan Corridor to install wind farms to convert wind energy into electricity. The joint corridor of Iran and Afghanistan is the largest one in terms of wind capacity and renewable energy. The issue of energy production in the wind corridor on the border of the two countries is one of the issues that will be further discussed during the Iranian energy minister’s future visits to Kabul.
Moreover, the Iranian Energy Ministry has adopted a plan to supply electricity to Afghanistan which will be announced soon.
Iran is also ready to connect gas and oil pipelines to Afghanistan to provide our neighboring nation with energy products.
Water issues such as the distribution of water in joint watershed areas as well as environmental protection have also an important place in mutual ties.
The development of relations between the two countries in the electrifying infrastructure sector is the other field of interest. Based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the two countries in August 2019, Iran repairs damaged electric transformers and turbines of power plants in Afghanistan.
Khaf-Herat Railway, new page in mutual coop.
The Iranian government has cooperated with the Afghan side in various fields over the past decades, the most important of which is the Herat-Khaf railway project.
The railway which is part of the Iran-Afghanistan rail corridor was launched in 2007 to connect Iran’s eastern city of Khaf to Afghanistan’s western city of Ghoryan. Khaf-Herat railway will be 130 km long, of which 70 km is inside Iran soil and 60 km is inside Afghanistan.
With the completion of this project, Afghanistan can take advantage of a railway for the first time that provides access to Turkey and Europe with Iran ports in the Persian Gulf.
The construction of the Khaf-Herat Railway and its role in the development of economic cooperation between the two countries is regarded as a major trade shift between Tehran and Kabul. The project has reached the final stage and it is hoped that it will influence economic fields positively.
While various countries, including the United States, claim they seek to bring peace and tranquility to Afghanistan, the first Iranian passenger train arrived in Afghanistan through the Khaf-Herat railway on October 29, while the Herat-Khaf passenger train is to become officially operational with the Iranian investment and assistance in the next few weeks.
Future of ties
In August 2020, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran’s will is focused on expanding relations with Afghanistan in all sectors by virtue of our shared historical and cultural backgrounds, and on strengthening ties by using the economic, trade, and transit capacities of the two countries.
The 6th Iran-Afghanistan Joint Economic Committee meeting is due to be held on October 25-27 in Kabul and the two parties are scheduled to confer on topics related to the launch of the Herat-Khaf railway, customs cooperation, border markets, energy issues, etc. at the meeting.
Iran and Afghanistan determined to boost mutual cooperation and are expected to have a very good future, especially with the realization of peace in Afghanistan.
Report by Haniyeh Sadat Jafariyeh