Landlocked Afghanistan has sent its first export shipment to India through Iran's strategic Chabahar Port.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who attended a special ceremony on February 24 in the western city of Zaranj to mark the event, said the exports through the Iranian port on the Indian Ocean would connect "hundreds of villages and millions of" Afghans to the outside world.
"Chabahar Port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran, and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth," he added.
The shipment contained 570 tons of dried fruits, textiles, carpets, and other goods carried by 23 vehicles, Afghan officials said.
The consignment is to be shipped to the port city of Mumbai in western India.
Key Supply Route
Chabahar Port, inaugurated in 2017, has been built largely by India and will provide a key supply route for Afghanistan while allowing India to bypass rival Pakistan to trade with Central Asia.
Most of Afghanistan's imports and exports currently go through Pakistan, which Kabul accuses of harboring the Afghan Taliban.
The U.S. State Department in November exempted the Chabahar Port project from its sanctions on Iran in recognition of its importance to war-torn Afghanistan.
The U.S. sanctions are intended to exert pressure on Iran to renegotiate its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which President Donald Trump walked away from in May 2018.
The effort to build up Afghanistan's economy is aimed at reducing Kabul's dependence on foreign aid and putting a major dent in the illicit opium trade that has been a major source of revenue for the Taliban insurgency.
New Delhi has poured $2 billion into development in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban's government.
In December 2018, the state-owned India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) formally took over operations at Chabahar Port.
With reporting by Reuters