India pushing Iran port plans despite US pressure

05 May 2015

India is pushing ahead with plans to develop a port in Chabahar, in southeastern Iran, in the Gulf of Oman, ignoring pressures from the United States, as the Narendra Modi government looks to open trade routes to Central Asia.

An agreement for the development of the strategically important Chabahar port is expected to be signed during union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari's visit to that country beginning tomorrow.

"Gadkari is scheduled to visit Iran on May 5. During his visit India and Iran may sign a memorandum of understanding for development of Chabahar port," official sources said.

US under secretary of state for political affairs Wendy Sherman had last week said India and other countries should "not rush" into doing business with Iran as Washington is yet to work out its nuclear deal with Tehran.

India and Iran had, in 2003, agreed to develop a port at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran's border with Pakistan, but the plan failed to take off because of western sanctions on Iran.

Reports say, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is prepared to fend off US pressure not to rush into any deals with Iran.

The increasing China-Pakistan engagement and the recent signing of several energy and infrastructure agreements between the two have only helped accelerate India's engagement with Iran and other Gulf countries.

Gadkari will travel to Ira on a day-long tour to sign a memorandum of understanding for development of Chabahar port, shipping ministry sources said, adding that a deal is expected to be signed tomorrow.

India and other countries have increased engagement with Iran after the country engaged major powers to agree on a deal on Iran's nuclear programme, after which sanctions could be eased. India also recently sent a delegation to Iran to scout for trade, energy and infrastructure deals.

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