Coinciding with India's plans to develop the strategically important Chabahar Port in Iran, the foreign minister of the country Ali Akbar Salehi will visit India on November 15.
Tehran has conveyed to New Delhi Salehi’s plans to attend Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in Bangalore on November 15 and to hold discussions with his Indian counterpart SM Krishna on a host of issues, senior government officials told HT.
Chabahar port — 72 km from Pakistan's deep-sea Gwadar port built with Chinese assistance — holds immense strategic and economic significance for India.
New Delhi maintains the port is in the common interest of “India, Iran Afghanistan, as well as Central Asia”. Chabahar is also closer to India than the existing port at Bandar Abbas.
With a host of problems including the West's antagonism toward Iran, the development of the port, for which India and Iran are cooperating since 2003 has not been making desired progress, will be discussed. The US’s concern over the project has also been weighing on India's mind, which has more to do with Iran’s nuclear programme.
The need to speed up the port project was discussed at length at the joint commission between India and Iran last year. Now, India will be sending a technical team to Iran in a bid to speed up the work. According to sources, ministry of shipping had held a meeting recently in this regard.
Circumventing Pakistan, the port can serve as India's entry point to Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond. The port can be connected to the Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan's Nimroz province, built with India’s assistance, via Milak.
India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar.