Chabahar port more economical, stable route to reach India: Jaishankar
Iran’s Chabahar port has emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region and is a “more economical and stable route” for landlocked countries to reach India and the global market, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Friday.
Jaishankar’s remarks in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha indicated India’s continuing commitment to the port on the Gulf of Oman despite speculation about its viability following the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in mid-August.
“The Chabahar port has provided much needed sea-access to landlocked Afghanistan. The port has also emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region. It is a more economical and stable route for landlocked countries of the region to reach India and the global market,” he said in response to a question from Bahujan Samaj Party MP Ritesh Pandey.
Pandey posed a supplementary query on the impact of US sanctions and the contention by the Iranian side that the project has been delayed, and Jaishankar replied: “I would like to inform the honourable member that his assertion is completely inaccurate. This agreement was signed in 2016. We took possession of the terminal in 2018. We have already supplied six cranes. The terminal is fully functional.”
Jaishankar added that US sanctions on Iran “are not relevant to this project at all”.
He further said in his written reply that Chabahar port facilitated the delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, and India used it to ship 75,000 tonnes of wheat as food assistance to Afghanistan in 2020. A total of 110,000 tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of pulses have been trans-shipped from India to Afghanistan so far.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016, a trilateral agreement to establish the International Transport and Transit Corridor (Chabahar Agreement) was signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan. India is participating in developing the first phase of Shahid Beheshti terminal at the port in cooperation with the Iranian government.
Jaishankar said India has committed a total grant assistance of $85 million and a credit facility of $150 million for developing Shahid Beheshti terminal.
“As part of our commitment towards infrastructure development of Shahid Beheshti terminal, Chabahar port, India has supplied [six] mobile harbour cranes (two 140 tonnes and four 100 tonnes capacity) and other equipment worth $25 million,” Jaishankar said.
The Indian company, India Ports Global Limited, through its wholly owned subsidiary, India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone, took over operations at Chabahar port on December 24, 2018. Since then, it has handled 160 vessels, 14,420 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo and 3.2 million tonnes of bulk and general cargo.
The Shahid Beheshti terminal has handled shipments and trans-shipments from countries such as Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine, Oman, Romania, Bangladesh, Australia, Kuwait, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates.