Countries remain committed to Chabahar port project, says Mr. Gadkari
India and Iran remain committed to the Chabahar port project, said the government after a meeting between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, who met on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony of Mr. Rouhani in Tehran to discuss bilateral issues.
During the meeting, Mr. Gadkari also handed over an invitation to the Iranian President to visit India.
“Both sides reiterated their commitment to complete and operationalise the [Chabahar] Port at the earliest that would contribute to bilateral and regional trade and economic development and also provide alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan to regional and global markets,” a statement from the MEA said on Sunday.
The visit by a senior Minister like Mr. Gadkari, who represented India at the swearing-in ceremony for Mr. Rouhani on Saturday, is seen as a significant reach out by the government after months of a slide in relations between the two countries, while the statement on Chabahar port comes after months of delays in progress on the project. “Once Chabahar is operationalised, which we are hopeful to be in 12 to 18 months time, it will prove to be a gateway to golden opportunities to boost trade and business,” Mr. Gadkari told PTI in Teheran.
In the past few months, India has also slashed oil imports from Iran by as much as 20%, according to shipping figures released in June, and is expected to lower its projected imports further in the wake of growing tensions between Iran and the U.S.
On August 2, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law new sanctions against Iran, indicating the tensions would rise further. India, which imported oil from the U.S. for the first time in July after PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S., is increasing its oil intake from Iraq and Saudi Arabia instead.
Indicating the Iranian unhappiness over the moves, the government in Teheran cut down the credit period offered to the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), and also inked an agreement for developing the Farzad-b gas fields to Russian company Gazprom, which India’s OVL had expected to win, and had made an $11 billion development bid for.
Although India and Afghanistan have both ratified the Chabahar trilateral deal inked last year in Teheran by Mr. Modi, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and President Rouhani, Iran’s internal processes have not been completed yet.
On the political front too, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei statements comparing the violence in Kashmir to that in Palestine suggested Iran’s unhappiness over PM Modi’s visit to Israel, and Mr. Gadkari’s visit is seen as a bid by both sides to reset the relationship.