India, Iran, Uzbekistan to hold first trilateral meet on Chabahar port use
India, Iran and Uzbekistan will hold their first trilateral meeting on joint use of the strategic Chabahar port next week against the backdrop of reports that the incoming Joe Biden administration in the US will re-engage Tehran on the nuclear issue.
The first trilateral working group meeting will be held virtually on December 14, and will be jointly chaired by deputy ministers of Iran and Uzbekistan and a secretary from India, the external affairs ministry said on Saturday.
The announcement came a day after Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed during a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a trilateral meeting should be held with Iran to promote Chabahar port.
India currently operates one of the terminals of Chabahar port that it has developed. The strategic project has been given a waiver from sanctions imposed by the US on Iran in view of its importance in shipping cargo and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
“India welcomes the interest of Uzbekistan to use the Chabahar port as a transit port,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“This would open up economic opportunities for the traders and business community of the region. Besides Uzbekistan, other Central Asian countries have also shown interest in using the port. India seeks to cooperate closely with regional countries on this issue,” the statement added.
US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign. However, president-elect Joe Biden has said he will offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy” since dealing with Tehran’s nuclear programme is the best way to achieve stability in the region.
The US, in consultation with allies and partners, will engage in “negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints”, Biden told The New York Times in an interview this month.
Biden also said he will insist on Iran agreeing to new demands if it wants the US to return to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions.
These developments had resulted in renewed interest in Chabahar port, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
Following the India-Uzbekistan Summit on Friday, Adarsh Swaika, joint secretary (Eurasia) in the external affairs ministry, said the two sides had discussed how to overcome lack of overland connectivity. Mirziyoyev gave his in-principle concurrence to joining the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), when Modi reiterated a proposal on Uzbekistan’s participation in the project.
“We as a principle would welcome any initiative that increases connectivity between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan or with other Central Asian countries,” Swaika said.