Alwaght- The Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan unity government Abdullah Abdullah has recently paid a visit to Iran. This is the second time that a senior Afghan official is visiting the Islamic Republic in less than a year.
Earlier, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani visited Iran. The CEO of the Afghan unity government is accompanied by his second aide Mohammad Mohaqiq, the Afghan president’s national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussein Alami Balkhi, the Trade and Industries Minister Humayun Rasa, the Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Bari Jahani and some other government members.
Since the formation of Afghanistan unity government, this is the first time official visit made by Afghanistan government’s CEO.
Though Iran is top in the list of the countries which supply the Afghanistan markets with products, the economic potentials used by the two countries do not accord with the level of their present-time commonalities.
Tehran-Kabul free trade deal
Given Afghanistan’s j o i ning the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ground could be prepared for signing a free trade deal between Iran and Afghanistan and with such an approach as easy visa giving to the two counters’ businessmen, further capabilities and opportunities, specifically in economic section, could be created.
Iran and Afghanistan have an annual trade volume worth over $2 billion, and Afghanistan’s imports from Iran account for a high percentage of the total Afghan trade.
And instead of Afghan drug smuggling to Iran, useful Afghanistan’s goods could be exported to Iran, increasing the Iranian-Afghan trade exchanges as according to the reached agreements.
Even more, it should be taken in to account that during the past decade Iran and India have provided the government of Mahmoud Karzai, the former Afghan president, with significant economic aids and they have been among the very few countries which have fulfilled their pledges to Afghanistan.
Tehran and New Delhi are considered as the major supporters and partners of Kabul in its rehabilitation of the infrastructures, including renovation of roads and reconstruction of Afghanistan’s border areas.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan is seeking getting linked to the global markets through Iran’s port of Chabahar and, therefore, transforming the Iranian port in to an international transit center of commercial goods is one of Iran, India and Afghanistan j o i nt plans.
How is port of Chabahar significant for the Afghan economy?
Iran, India and Afghanistan have signed in 2003 the first agreement to launch a project of expansion of port of Chabahar. Considering wider transiting, exporting and importing role of port of Chabahar in Afghanistan’s economy, Iran and Afghanistan could obtain Kabul’s aim which is reducing Afghanistan’s independence to Pakistan for transit of Afghan goods. They could also replace the Pakistan’s port of Karachi with the Iranian port.
Afghanistan is willing to use port of Chabahar for its goods’ exports and imports. Currently, a large portion of the country’s imported products are coming in through Pakistan, as Kabul uses Pakistan for exporting its products to other countries.
On the other hand, the cooperation between Kabul and Tehran could secure Iran a larger transit role in the region. This is coming while the j o i nt plan to expand port of Chabahar is one of the most important Iran-India’s economic projects and is an Indian effort to reach the Afghan market and to create the possibility to transit the Indian products to the region and also to bypass Pakistan as a transit route.
ISIS’ presence in Afghanistan
ISIS terror group’s increasing role in Afghanistan has made it inevitable for Tehran and Kabul to ramp up security cooperation. Meanwhile, due to heavy losses received by the terrorist group in Iraq and its harsh suppression in Syria, it is anticipated that some of the group’s fighters flow to Afghanistan.
Although Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province is picked by ISIS as the hotbed of its activity in the country, the group’s elements are seen in other Afghan provinces like Nimruz and Zabul, both of them sharing borders with Iran. Thereby, the security collaborations would be of significance as part of the two countries’ bilateral ties.
Meanwhile, to confront the emerging ISIS group in Afghanistan, some branches of Taliban group could be engaged in real peace talks. Iran could mediate in Afghanistan’s peace negotiations so that the country takes advantage of the group against ISIS.
Still in another aspect, Iran has developed great experiences in its fight against drugs smuggling. Such an Iranian counter-drugs experience could be very useful for Afghanistan.
Fighting drugs smuggling
Iran represents one of the big routes for trafficking of drugs. Meanwhile, such issues as existence of 950 kilometers of shared borders between Iran and Afghanistan, cultural and lingual commonalities, the planting and trading a major portion of the drugs by Afghanistan which is Iran’s eastern neighbor, plenty of sectarian and cultural violence altogether leave a lot of political and security impacts on Iran. Having all these issues in mind, Afghanistan’s geopolitical and geostrategic importance is doubled for Iran.
So, such threats as planting and producing the illegal substance and transiting it through Iran’s borders involve the two countries in to cooperation.
Furthermore, the important issues like j o i nt working to find ways to provide the region with sustainable stability and security and making collective attempts to fight producing and trading of the drugs represent the most important goals realizable through the two nations’ unity and consistence.
Additionally, the Afghan unity government has tried in recent months to further consider convergence with the regional countries, an approach signaling a specific Afghan focus on the regional cooperation.
In the present time Kabul is highly dependent to foreign aids and many of the Western as well as Arab countries do not hold a positive view of Iran’s presence in Afghanistan and enhancement of ties between the two neighbors. In addition, some Afghan groups have taken anti-Iranian stances as issues over water shares of border rivers, especially Helmand River and Hari River, remain standing.
Iran, Afghanistan strategic requirements
It must be noted that the strategic requirements bring the two countries in to a steady cooperation. Considering such cases as Helmand River’s drought and the unimplemented earlier agreements, the two countries could reach a new deal.
Even more, Iran is presently one of the countries accommodating the largest population of the Afghan immigrants, and the disaccords with Afghanistan's government over them for a long time remained unresolved between the two sides.
With a regard to the lasting war conditions, widespread poverty, costs paid by Iran and other challenges, the Afghan immigrants presence could be more regulated through dialogue, j o i nt agreements and taking more precise steps, as the two countries' considerations could be paid attention to at the same time.
Afghanistan’s geocultural significance for Iran
Cultural and civilizational bonds of Afghanistan and Iran and their old time cultural and historical relations add to the Afghan geocultural importance for the Islamic Republic.
Considering the case, Afghanistan could be described as a cultural continuation of Iran, because culturally, Iran has no alternative in Afghanistan and no country could fill an Iranian cultural vacuum in Afghanistan.
Through more accurate focus and highlight on the shared cultural values, Tehran and Kabul could open up a new chapter of cooperation. Such a move could create some capabilities for them, as it could lead to heightened cultural ties.
Bolstering cultural Diplomacy
The two countries could strengthen a cultural diplomacy through identifying the common cultural legacies and making efforts to designate them as world heritage, publishing j o i nt scientific journals, stepping up inter-academic collaborations, revitalizing literature and language academies and founding j o i nt science academies. Such activities could remarkably help a cultural, political and subsequently economic converge.