India-Iran ties: Chabahar Port to be handed over to Indian firm in a month
New Delhi, Sep 7: The Chabahar port, which is seen as India's counter to Pakistan's Gwadar Port, is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries.
Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi on Thursday said Iran will handover the strategic Chabahar port to Indian company within a month for operation as per an interim pact, as per a PTI report. Akhoundi is in India to participate in the Mobility Summit by Niti Aaayog on the invitation of India government.
"Now, we are ready just to handover the port (Chabahar) to the Indian company just to operate this in interim agreement that already we had with Indian part for one and a half year," Akhoundi told PTI.
Chabahar Port (File photo)
The Chabahar Port just not cements the ties between India and Iran but it gives the former an access to Afghanistan and central Asia without touching Pakistan's soil. The agreement was made in 2003 when the NDA led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power but it was slowed down by the sanctions imposed on Iran later.
Akhoundi after a meeting with his Indian counerpart Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said: "We have already moved one step forward...We should introduce a banking channel to India, which we already did it and fortunately has been formally accepted by the Indian side".
Gadkari chairing a high level meeting on Chabahar Port (File photo)
He said the India has also introduced a banking channel, which has been approved by Iran's Central Bank.
"Indian side had investment in Chabahar port and we are moving towards utilisation of the Chabahar port," Akhoundi said, adding that the handing over of the port should be done "during one month. We have done everything".
India went on with the port development despite US's warning
India had earlier rushed some of its important ministers to Iran to launch initiative on various development projects and the two sides did so despite the US warning. New Delhi felt developing the port did not amount to violation of the sanctions. India also ensured that the land-locked Afghanistan would be given an access to the sea through this project, hence reducing its reliance on Pakistan and bring it closer to its own fold in the greater power game of South Asia. Iran also has its plans to benefit from the port. It wants India to set up a free-trade zone near Chabahar, just like the Chinese Overseas Ports Holding Company has agreed to help Pakistan create a free economic zone.
Under the agreement signed between India and Iran earlier, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.
On US sanctions impacting oil trade, the visiting minister hoped to find a way out to continue selling crude oil to India.
Chabahar is India's reply to Gwadar
India is particularly keen to increase its involvement with the Chabahar Port as it sees in it a reply to the China-operated Gwadar Port in Pakistan. Separated by barely 72 kilometres, these two ports are not just trading and transit points but significant geo-political launch pads. While China has plans to use the Gwadar Port to get an access to the water bodies around India, the latter eyes to use the Chabahar Port to reach out to the land routes in central Asia, posing a competitive threat to China.
OneIndia News with PTI inputs