Along with the joint development of the Chabahar port in Iran announced by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in Tehran on Saturday, India is considering investments in several other projects to boost India-Iran-Afghanistan ties.
Diplomatic sources said India was exploring investments in the Chabahar container terminal project and in the proposed Chabahar-Faraj-Bam railway. Once this railroad is complete, containers can be speedily sent to Bam, on the Afghan border. Then onward journey can commence along the 200-km India-built Zaranj-Delaram road that hooks up with Afghanistan’s garland highway, linking all major cities.
From an Iranian perspective, Chabahar’s commercial advantages reinforce the importance of its strategic location. Iran was looking for Indian investments in the Chabahar Free Trade and Industrial Zone — an area of around 140 sq km that is carved into nine functional zones. Over cups of freshly brewed coffee, Indian and Iranian officials on Saturday brainstormed the possibility of establishing a 12-lakh-tonne urea plant in Chabahar, taking advantage of the availability of Iran’s exceptionally cheap natural gas.
If the U.S. was the elephant in the room when delegates met across the giant horse-shoe table, Mr. Khurshid and Mr. Salehi — the urbane Iranian Foreign Minister — chose to ignore it. Mr. Salehi spoke eloquently about transitioning Iran’s role from a major oil supplier to an anchor of India’s energy security. He alluded to the off-shore Farzad B project where Indian companies could acquire oil under a lucrative production sharing agreement. On his part, Mr. Khurshid tuned the attention of his hosts to the merits of expanding India’s role in Iran’s food security basket.