Iran offers India control of strategic Chabahar Port

New Delhi: (DHNS) As Tehran wants New Delhi to raise its stake in Chabahar Port in Iran, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Friday offered India a deal that not only involves developing the second phase of the port but also for operating it.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) greets Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj before their meeting in New Delhi, India, August 14, 2015. Iran is open to Indian private companies investing in the development of Chabahar port, Zarif said on Friday. REUTERS Photo

New Delhi already pledged to build a container terminal and a multi-purpose cargo terminal on two berths at the Chabahar Port in south-eastern coast of Iran. Tehran’s new offer appeared to be lucrative to India, as the strategically important port could give it a sea-land access to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.

Zarif was on a visit to New Delhi since Thursday. He called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had a meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday. Tehran’s fresh offer for New Delhi on Chabahar Port was spelt out when Iranian Foreign Minister had a meeting with Shipping and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.

India’s interest in Chabahar Port in Iran grew further after Pakistan last year handed over the control of its Gwadar Port to China. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has since long been using the Gwadar Port, which New Delhi perceives as yet another addition to the “String of Pearls” – a series of strategic assets Beijing is acquiring around India.

Pakistan’s decision to transfer the management of the port to the Overseas Port Holding Company of China for 40 years sent jitters to India, which responded by moving fast on the Chabahar Port Project.

The prime minister conveyed to the Iranian Foreign Minister New Delhi’s commitment to work with Tehran for development of the Chabahar Port, which would have “far reaching benefit, not only for the people of India and Iran, but also for Afghanistan and the entire Central Asia region”.

‘Hugely beneficial’ Gadkari later said that Iran’s latest offer on the second phase of the Chabahar Port appeared to be “hugely beneficial” for India and the government would soon take a call.

Zarif and Gadkari on Friday also discussed the proposed India-Iran-Afghanistan Transit Trade Agreement. They agreed on the need to expeditiously conclude the agreement, which will enable the potential of Chabahar Port to be realised. Zarif was Tehran’s chief negotiator for the recently-concluded deal with E3+3 (US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany) over nuclear programme of Iran.

His was the first high-level visit from Tehran to New Delhi after the landmark deal was inked last month. As the deal raised prospects of easing of sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic by the US, European Union and United Nations, both New Delhi and Tehran are now keen to breathe fresh life into the bilateral economic engagement.

Zarif conveyed to Modi that Iran considered India its strategic partner and could never forget the support India extended to Iran during its difficult times.

He is also understood to have indicated Tehran’s willingness to favourably consider the proposal of ONGC Videsh Limited of India to return to the Farzad B gas field in Iran.

Not only the OVL, but also other state-owned companies of India had to abandon  hydrocarbon projects in Iran due to strict sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

New Delhi is also discussing with Tehran ways to clear payment for crude oil India imported from Iran in the past years. Sanctions on Iran had made it difficult for India to make payments.

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