EghtesadOnline: India and Iran on Tuesday reviewed the progress on completing the Chabahar Port project that will provide India a critical transport link to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
At the first trilateral meeting of India, Iran and Afghanistan held in Kabul, the host country also conveyed to both New Delhi and Tehran its keenness on the project’s early completion, Indian daily The Statesman reported.
The meeting was chaired by Afghan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hekmat Khalil Karzai.
The Indian and Iranian delegations were led by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi respectively, according to Financial Tribune.
An official press release issued in New Delhi said the meeting focused on consolidating economic cooperation, including Chabahar, as well as enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and continuing support for the peace and reconciliation process that is led and owned by Afghanistan. The three sides agreed to hold the next round of consultation next year.
The meeting came days after Iran announced that it would hand over the maintenance and operation of Chabahar Port to India soon.
India has been under intense pressure from the United States to reduce its trade and commercial links with Iran in view of American sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
New Delhi has, however, asked the US to keep Chabahar Port out of the sanctions regime since the project was primarily aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to the war-affected people of Afghanistan.
The port is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located 80 km from Chabahar.
The first phase of Chabahar Port was inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in December.
Chabahar consists of two separate ports: Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti. The opening of first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port (out of five phases defined for the project), which has tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country), will allow the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT).
Chabahar Port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
Under an agreement signed between India and Iran in May 2016, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.