Iran offers India expanded role in strategic port: report

18 Jul 2015


Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has suggested a larger role for India in building the country's dilapidated infrastructure and has asked India to invest up to $8 billion, which includes an expanded role in developing a strategic port of Chabahar.

Chabahar in southeast Iran is key to India's efforts to access and pursue its economic and security interests in landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian nations circumventing Pakistan.

India had in May signed an $85 million deal for leasing two existing berths at the Chabahar port and use them as multi-purpose cargo terminals. India's shipping minister Nitin Gadkari and his Iranian counterpart Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi signed the deal.

Iran has now offered India two more - a second and third - terminals at the port, as well as railway connections into the rest of Iran, Ansari said.

Rouhani suggested this during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a summit in Russia days before the historic nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Reuters quoted Iran's ambassador to India, Gholam Reza Ansari, as saying.

The twin summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS preceded the historic nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

''The potential between Iran and India is great but we were just facing such a wall of sanctions, wall of American pressure,'' the report quoted ambassador Gholamreza Ansari as saying.

India, Ansari said, should seize the opportunity as soon as sanctions are lifted. Sanctions would be lifted soon, it was a ''golden time'' for India to seize investment opportunities because of the two countries' close trade ties and shared interest in improving Central Asian transport links, he said.

''Connectivity is the main policy of Modi that coincides with Iran's government policy,'' Ansari said. ''We have offered them, in connectivity, $8 billion of projects.''

Port of Chabahar in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province of Iran, next to the Gulf of Oman.  

While Modi's tour of Central Asian countries and his meeting with Rouhani was part of an increased focus on Central Asia for increasing India's trade relations with the region, neither the prime minister's office nor the foreign ministry made any comments on Rouhani's offer.

India and Iran had as far back as 2003 agreed to develop Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran's border with Pakistan, but the venture has moved slowly because of western sanctions over Iran's atomic programme.

While India and Iran maintain close relations, India has been lax in exploiting commercial opportunities, according to Ansari. Despite the US-led trade barriers India continued its oil buying from Iran, although at a reduced scale of 220,000 barrels per day.

India also moved slowly on opportunities in Iran in the past, including the giant Farzad B gas field. Ansari said India was the ''first priority'' to develop Farzad B, but urged New Delhi to move fast, ''If they drag their feet, the market will not wait.''

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