Chahbahar port: India, Iran, Afghanistan to set up group
Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tehran for the NAM summit, India and Iran have agreed to set up a joint working group along with Afghanistan to discuss the development of the strategically important Chahbahar port in Iran. A trilateral meeting between Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Iran and Afghanistan took place in Tehran on Sunday during which the decision to set up the joint working group was taken.
“The objective of the meeting was to explore ways to expand trade and transit cooperation, including investment, among the three countries starting with the Chahbahar Port. It was agreed that a JWG comprising representatives of the three countries would meet within the next three months at Chahbahar to take the discussions forward. It was agreed that the exact date of the meeting would be decided through diplomatic channels,” a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said.
The Chahbahar port, which has road connectivity to the Afghan border, provides India an alternate route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. Tehran has moved rather slowly on this project despite India having built the Zaranj-Delaram road from the Afghan side of the Iran-Afghanistan border.
However, at a time when its economic health is suffering on account of international sanctions, the necessity to engage India has prodded Iran to move forward.
On Saturday, before he left for Iran, Mathai gave a clear update on the Chahbahar project and underlined why the port remained so important for India. “We have just received a report analysing various options in the light of what Iran plans for the port. It has a number of different possibilities and we are studying it. The Iranians have plans for developing also the rail lines which will go from
Chahbahar not only towards the Afghan border but further to the Turkmen border through Mashaq. All these raise a number of very interesting possibilities in terms of the reconstruction at the industrial developments in Afghanistan in which we have a very large stake,” he said.
Iran is hosting the NAM summit later this week which will be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The PM will have bilateral meetings with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.