Trilateral transport agreement signing

Trilateral transport agreement signing during Modi’s Iran visit

New Delhi, May 20 (IANS) A trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on transport and transit corridor using Chabahar port as a hub will be signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran on May 22-23, it was announced on Friday.

Modi, who will leave for Tehran on Sunday afternoon, will be accorded an official reception on Monday following which he will hold talks with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

“The two leaders (Modi and Rouhani) will discuss in depth bilateral relations, and exchange views on regional situation and global issues of mutual interest,” Gopal Baglay, joint secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the ministry of external affairs, said at a media briefing here.

The two leaders will then witness the signing of bilateral documents after which Rouhani will host a lunch in honour of Modi.

“Thereafter, the trilateral Agreement on Transport and Transit Corridor among India, Afghanistan and Iran will be signed at a separate event,” Baglay said.

“It will highlight the significance India attaches to developing connectivity, using Chabahar as a regional hub.”

The joint secretary said the bilateral contract on development and operation by India of Phase I of Chabahar port would be signed between Indian Ports Global and Arya Banader of Iran.

“Documents on EXIM bank line of credit to Iran, including for the port, will be signed as well,” he said.

India will invest over $200 million in the first phase of Chabahar port of which EXIM Bank will extend $150 million as a line of credit.

“The trilateral agreement using Chabahar-Zahedan-Zaranj as a corridor will be a game-changer for regional connectivity, especially for Afghanistan to find an assured and reliable alternative access to India via sea,” Baglay said.

“The route will also significantly enhance prospects for India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond through synergies with other initiatives such as North South Transport Corridor.”

According to Baglay, Modi’s visit post-lifting of international sanctions on the Gulf nation for its nuclear programme would focus mainly on connectivity and infrastructure, energy partnership, boosting bilateral trade, promoting regular consultations on peace and stability, particularly in our region and extended neighbourhood, and encouraging people-to-people relations.

He said there was interest in Indian public and private sector to invest in Chabahar Free Trade Zone, as also in railway projects in Iran.

Progress on the Farzad B gas field would elevate further India’s energy partnership with Iran beyond a buyer-seller relationship, he stated.

“Discussions have moved towards commercial conclusion and financial closure,” the joint secretary said.

“A host of measures will be discussed to promote bilateral trade, including expanding and strengthening the legal framework and more B2B interactions. Matters pertaining to restoring effective banking channels in the post-sanctions phase will also be addressed.”

India owes Iran around $6.5 billion for oil imports the payment of which was stuck as proper banking channels were not found for transferring such a huge amount

“Both Iran and India have stakes in peace and stability in the region, which faces several challenges, including terrorism and violent extremism,” Baglay said.

“Discussions between the two leaders will cover these aspects and will guide further the regular consultations between the two countries at various levels in these and related areas — such as cyber crime and maritime security,” he said.

“Peace and stability in Afghanistan, on which the three countries (India, Iran and Afghanistan), held their first trilateral consultations last month in New Delhi, will also be discussed.”

According to the joint secretary, Modi’s visit to Iran will impart a timely impetus to the ongoing efforts of the two countries and their business entities to expand bilateral cooperation and mutually benefit from new opportunities in the wake of lifting of secondary sanctions against Iran earlier this year.

“Deliberations between the two leaders will guide preparation of a roadmap for expanding and strengthening bilateral cooperation with Iran and cement our close civilisational ties in the contemporary context, on the basis of shared interests,” Baglay said.

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