India is hopeful to fully operationalise the strategic Chabahar
port in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran and the government has allowed
an Iranian bank to open a branch in Mumbai for related transactions, Union
Minister Nitin Gadkari said Tuesday ( 8 January 2019).
Gadkari, after Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad
Zarif called on him, said that the meeting was "fruitful" and both
the sides could resolve several issues.
"Chabahar port is very important for us. We are working very
hard on it... Some problems were there, but the Iranian government and their
minister... are also in the process to resolve all the issues as early as
possible. I am confident that we will be in a position to start full function
of Chabahar Port at the earliest," Gadkari said.
The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the
energy-rich nation's southern coast is easily accessible from India's western
coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar port located
at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.
Zarif said, "We are very happy that both UCO Bank from India
and Pasargad Bank from Iran are getting started with the business."
The two banks will facilitate transactions relating to operation
of berths at Chabahar port. Shipping and Road Transport and Highways Minister
Gadkari said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given all clearances to an
Iranian bank which to open a branch within the next three months.
"The government of India has given permission to an Iranian
bank to open its branch in Mumbai. It is going to open within three months, and
will be used for transactions (related to Chabahar port)," Gadkari said.
India has placed USD 85 million machinery order for Chabahar, he said.
He said India has already taken over partial operations at
Chabahar, and the first ship from Brazil has already been received at the
Iranian port. This is the first time India will be operating a port outside its
The government of India took over the operations of a part of
Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar, in Iran during the Chabahar Trilateral
Agreement meeting held there on December 24, 2018.
The heads of Indian, Iranian and Afghanistan delegations had
jointly inaugurated the office of the Indian SPV - India Ports Global Chabahar
Free Zone (IPGCFZ) at Chabahar. Commercial operations began at IPGCFZ with the
arrival of a vessel, a Cyprus registered bulk carrier that arrived at Chabahar
with 72,458 MT of corn cargo.
The vessel MV Macheras berthed at the terminal at 0130 hrs on
December 30, 2018, and IPGCFZ carried out its first cargo operation by
discharging the imported cargo (ex-Brazil) using pneumatic un-loaders.
Gadkari said the Iranian Minister has given many proposals
including those on a barter system between the two nations.
"They need steel, particularly rail steel and locomotive
engines in large quantities, and they are ready to supply urea," he
India can provide steel rails to Iran and the Persian gulf nation
can provide urea to India, he added.
"For railway line, IRCON has to work. We have got proposal
for locomotive engines ...," the minister added.
Iraninan Minister Zarif said, "We had very good discussions
on both Chabahar as well as other areas of cooperation between Iran and India.
The two countries complement each other and we can cooperate in whole range of
areas... We hope that in spite of the illegal US sanctions, Iran and India can
cooperate further for the benefit of the people of the two countries and for
India started interacting with Iran on Chabahar Port around 2003,
but a major push was received in the second half of 2014, resulting in the
signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries for
the development of Chabahar Port in May 2015.
This MoU translated into a formal ten-year contract for equipping
and operating the Chabahar port, which was executed on May 23, 2016, during
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tehran. On account of challenges in
activation of the said contract, the foundation of an interim period contract
was laid during the visit of Hassan Rouhani, President of Islamic Republic of
Iran to New Delhi in February 2018. Resultant was a formal short-term contract
between the two sides that was signed on May 6, 2018.
The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December
2017 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route
connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
The Chabahar port is being considered as a gateway to golden
opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian
countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of
Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
Under the agreement signed between India and Iran earlier, India
is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar port Phase-I with capital
investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95
million on a 10-year lease.