India, Iran and Central Asia work to unlock Chabahar port

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India had earlier this year said that it remains engaged on the modalities of the implementation of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, as well as other developmental projects in Iran, reports Asian Lite News

India and Iran are stepping on the gas to develop Chabahar as the preferred port for channelling trade between landlocked Central Asia with South Asia and other parts of the world.

While India was pro-actively discussing removal of bottlenecks that come in the way of fully utilising Iran’s sole deep-water port, with foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries in New Delhi over the weekend, Tehran was also internally brainstorming strategies to fully develop its major asset on the Indian Ocean coast.

In Tehran, Iran’s Foreign Economic Relations Coordination Council went into a huddle to discuss the big picture, as well as some details to develop Chabahar.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy, Mehdi Safari revealed during the meeting that India is interested in purchasing Iranian condensate which can be bartered for Indian pharmaceutical raw materials, using the port. He also praised the growth of agricultural exports and said that reaching an agreement on export tariffs would take Iran’s trade ties with India to a new high.

The minister also stressed the importance of establishing the Zahedan-Chabahar railway line.

India had earlier this year said that it remains engaged on the modalities of the implementation of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, as well as other developmental projects in Iran.

It was during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May 2016 that a MoU was signed between IRCON International Limited of India and the Construction, Development of Transport and Infrastructure Company (CDTIC) of Iran for the construction of the railway project.

The line, a joint collaboration between the governments of India and Iran, will provide faster connectivity from the Chabahar port to Afghanistan and further to Central Asia. It will also bolster the existing connectivity by road from the Chabahar port to Afghanistan.

Safari said that Iran is also considering “exporting engineering services” projects, especially to India, as a basis for creating more job opportunities.

India will be sending a high-level delegation to Chabahar early next year following an invite from the government of Iran.

The decision was taken during the second Trilateral Working Group meeting between India, Iran and Uzbekistan on the joint use of Chabahar Port which was held virtually last Tuesday.

It takes forward New Delhi’s efforts on having an inter-connected Eurasia through the development of Chabahar port and also enhancing connectivity with the landlocked region via the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

On Sunday, during the India-Central Asia Dialogue, the foreign ministers had welcomed the proposal to include Chabahar Port within the framework of INSTC.

India has also welcomed the interest of Central Asian countries to utilise the services of Shahid Beheshti Terminal at Chabahar Port for facilitating their trade with India and beyond.

“Met Uzbekistan FM Abdulaziz Kamilov for the sixth time this year. Trilateral discussions with Iran on Chabahar are noteworthy. Our development partnership can make a difference in urban infrastructure,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had tweeted.

Analysts point out that India is keen on a Chabahar deal with Iran, before sanctions are lifted on Iran following the signing of a new nuclear agreement between Tehran and the west. Once a new settlement is signed, it will be difficult for India to sign a preferential contract with a sanctions-free Iran.

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