Afghanistan-Iran Balance in Trade while Facing Deadly Water Conflict: Dr. Muhammad Asim

The ongoing water conflict between Afghanistan and Iran highlights the complex dynamics at play between the two neighboring countries. While the dispute revolves around water-sharing issues, it is interesting to note that bilateral trade has continued despite the deadly clashes and strained relations. This essay explores the underlying causes of the Afghanistan-Iran water conflict, analyzes the impact on bilateral trade, and discusses the prospects for resolution and cooperation.

Causes of the Water Conflict

The water conflict stems from Afghanistan’s damming of the Harirud River and the construction of dams on the Helmand River. These projects, aimed at boosting Afghanistan’s agriculture and industry, have raised concerns in Iran due to the potential reduction in water flow. Iran’s worsening drought conditions have further intensified the issue, as it heavily relies on the Harirud and Helmand rivers for water supply. Afghanistan’s failure to adhere to water-sharing agreements, such as the Helmand Water Treaty, has fueled tensions and strained relations between the two countries.

Impact on Bilateral Trade

Despite the water conflict, Afghanistan and Iran have managed to maintain bilateral trade ties. Both countries have recognized the importance of balancing their economic interests alongside the water dispute. The recent signing of a trade and transit agreement involving India, Iran, and Afghanistan indicates a concerted effort to enhance regional trade. While the clashes at the border have resulted in casualties, both countries have called for de-escalation, aiming to separate trade relations from the conflict.

Prospects for Resolution and Cooperation

Resolving the water conflict requires dialogue and cooperation between Afghanistan and Iran. The importance of addressing the issue is underscored by the significant implications for both countries’ water security and stability in the region. International mediation, technical expertise, and diplomatic negotiations are crucial in finding a mutually acceptable solution. Building Afghan capacity and expertise in water-related issues can contribute to constructive dialogue. Additionally, strengthening regional cooperation frameworks and emphasizing the shared benefits of water management can foster long-term stability and cooperation.


The water conflict between Afghanistan and Iran poses significant challenges to their bilateral relations, but it is noteworthy that trade ties have remained intact despite the clashes and tensions. Balancing economic interests and water management requires delicate diplomacy and a commitment to resolving the dispute. By prioritizing dialogue, cooperation, and regional frameworks, Afghanistan and Iran can work towards a mutually beneficial solution that addresses their water needs while maintaining stable trade relations. Ultimately, the successful resolution of the water conflict can pave the way for broader cooperation and regional stability.

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