India, Iran, Afghanistan sign Chabahar Port transit agreement
Tehran, Oct 24: India, Iran and Afghanistan on Tuesday, October 23, signed an agreement on transit of goods via the West Asian nation's southeastern port of Chabahar, considered a key geostrategic asset in the power game in South Asia. The report was confirmed by Islamic Republic of Iranian Broadcasting.
While India was represented by TS Trimurti, the secretary of economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs, Iran was represented by Mohammad Rastad, the head of Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization and Afghanistan by Imammohammad Warymoch, the country's deputy minister of transport. The pact was inked during the first meeting of the coordination council of agreement on the establishment of an international transport and transit corridor among Iran, India and Afghanistan or the Chabahar Agreement.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran in May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan had signed a trilateral transit agreement allowing the three countries open new routes to connect among themselves by transforming the port into a transit hub evading the Pakistani territory. It was also being seen as a reply to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, which is being built with Chinese assistance. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghanistani President Ashraf Ghani were also present on that occasion.
Modi had committed that India would be investing $500 million behind the strategic port.
In February this year, when Rouhani visited India, a lease contract for Chabahar's Shahid Beheshti Port-Phase 1 was signed between the Iranian PMO and India's Ports Global Limited (IPGL).
Trimurti said on the occasion in Tehran that Chabahar is the region's transit hub. "Chabahar Port is in the road that links India to Central Asia; so we can make this port a hub of our transit activities and we are eagerly waiting for the inauguration of Chabahar-Zahedan and Khaf-Herat railway projects," he was quoted as saying.
"Trilateral transit cooperation will lead to flourishing the region, he noted and said that India believes that Iran's suggestions for facilitating and improving transit via Chabahar are acceptable and can be carried out."
Rastad said the IPGL has already made some investments for installing equipment in the port and will start equipping and operating in Chabahar in two weeks' time.
He also said the next meeting of the council of Chabahar Agreement will be held by the next two months.
Afghanistan's representative Warymoch said promotion of transit through Chabahar Port is a priority for Kabul.