India and Iran signed a series of agreements on Monday that will allow New Delhi to use the port of Chahbahar to access Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Two terminals:- The first agreement, a bilateral, signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's May 22-23 visit, will provide India the right to develop and operate two terminals and five berths with multipurpose cargo handling capacities in the port of Chahbahar for 10 years. Following the bilateral, Prime Minister Modi and Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani were joined by Dr. Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, who sealed the agreement for Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor connecting Chahbahar with Afghan road and rail network.
The two countries also sealed 11 other agreements, covering culture, finance and conservation, during Mr. Modi's official meetings with the Iranian President.
Mr. Modi's visit was preceded by those of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan, when the contracts were finalised. “The agreement to develop the Chahbahar port and related infrastructure, and availability of about $500 million from India for this purpose, is an important milestone. This major effort would boost economic growth in the region," Mr. Modi said in his statement, following the signing of the agreement between India Ports Global Private Limited and Arya Banader of Iran.
The main contract on Chahbahar port was supplemented by a contract between the Ex-Im Bank of India and Iran's Ports and Maritime Organisation with a capital back-up of $150 million for developing the port. Speaking at the event to launch the Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor, Mr. Modi said, “The arc of economic benefit from this agreement could extend to the depths of the Central Asian countries. When linked with the International North South Transport Corridor, it would touch South Asia at one end and Europe at another."
Pakistan circumvented:- The agreement on Chahbahar will open a new route of commerce between India, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia, feels Maharaja Krishna Rasgotra, former Foreign Secretary and one of the first Indian diplomats to have joined foreign services in post-1947 India.
“Soon after 1947, Pakistan became an obstacle between India and Central Asia and that is why we tried repeatedly in the past to befriend Iran and open an alternative route to Central Asia. We tried to have warm ties with Iran but our attempts were not always successful. But the agreement on Chahbahar will finally convince Pakistan that it cannot continue to play the role of an obstacle for India's plans for Central Asia," Mr. Rasgotra told The Hindu.
The agreement is a tangible sign of India-Iran cooperation, say West Asian experts who also feel that India will have to draw benefits from the newly opened Iranian economy without getting drawn into the regional rivalries. “India will have to ensure that its engagement is not taken as an approval for regional power politics by any of the regional big players," said Prof. Ashwini Mahapatra of the Centre for West Asian Studies of JNU.