New Delhi and Tehran have agreed to finalise the Chabahar Agreement that will give India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia via the Iranian port on the Gulf of Oman. The decision was taken after Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj's visit to Iran last week.
The strategic port will open transit corridor for India to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan, the Economic Times reported. Islamabad has consistently refused to give transit rights to India for transportation of goods to the two region.
A delegation of experts who visited Tehran along with Swaraj held meetings there on April 11 to fast-track the agreement. India had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arab nation in May last year to build the port, but needed to sign a commercial deal to start the construction.
"The draft agreement envisions trilateral cooperation for providing alternative access to seas to Afghanistan, inter alia for Afghanistan's trade with India," ET quoted the external affairs ministry as saying. India is expecting to use the port to reach as far as Russia and Europe.
"It will significantly enhance utilisation of Chabahar Port, contribute to economic growth of Afghanistan and facilitate better regional connectivity, including between India and connections to Afghanistan and central Asia. The agreement will be a strategic bulwark for greater flow of people and goods among the three countries, as well as in the region," the ministry said.
During the meeting between Swaraj and her counterpart Javad Zarif, the two countries agreed to work on modalities under which India will extend a $150-million credit line for the construction of jetties and berths. New Delhi will also supply steel rails worth $400 million to Tehran.
India and Iran had agreed to build the port in Chabahar, along Iran's border with Pakistan, in 2003, but the project was moving slowly as Tehran was under sanctions over its nuclear programme. The United Nations and the United States lifted the sanctions in January this year after Iran followed through on all the terms of a nuclear deal it had struck with the world powers in July last year.