India and Iran on Friday rounded off extensive discussions on Afghanistan, which included an Indo-Iranian initiative to develop a new trading route to the land locked country and a “regional approach” to bringing peace and stability.
Talks between visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi and senior Foreign Office officials here also touched on the possibility of a trilateral meeting between India, Iran and Afghanistan, to discuss how the situation can be stabilised.
The talks appear to have further coordinated Indian and Iranian positions on national reconciliation in Afghanistan. Both countries agreed that the Afghan Constitution would be the “basis and pillar for any action,” Mr. Fathollahi said at a press conference.
Both sides want to accommodate only those militia groups that accept the suzerainty of Kabul in governing Afghanistan.
They also exchanged views on the specific policies of the Afghan Government in the recently held Kabul conference and noted that efforts had begun by countries in the region in the form of trilateral conferences. So far, Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran and Iran-Tajikistan-Afghanistan meets have been held, Mr. Fathollahi said. Asked about Pakistan's role, he said, “in our regional strategy we believe in cooperation with Pakistan.”
The issue of modernisation of Iranian port of Chabar, to give a fillip to economic activity in Afghanistan was also discussed in detail. “This issue is of great importance to the Indian side as well. The details of cooperation with India were discussed today. In future there will be fundamental developments regarding the position of Chabar,” he noted.
India has proposed expanding the capacity of the port, currently working at its full handling capacity of 2.5 million tonnes of cargo per year from two active berths, by five times and linking it to the Iranian town of Bam, on Afghan border, with a railway line. From there goods are proposed to be taken to Afganistan through the Zaranj-Delaram road, built by India, which in turn links up with the garland highway connecting all major Afghan cities.
As Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao recently noted, the Zaranj-Delaram road has already revived the economy in Nimroz province of Afghanistan. She is confident that the link up with Chabar would enable it to gain from transit of goods to Central Asia, in addition to the local economy benefiting from access to a sea port.
Iran also indicated that despite India being unenthusiastic about the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, it was welcome to join the project at a later stage. “Our decision in the beginning was to conclude the project with Pakistan and India. But with delays affecting our investment plans, we have pursued the project with Pakistan. But in the contract we have inserted the line ‘through Pakistan to India.' If New Delhi is ready to continue negotiations then it is possible to join and link up to India,'' said Mr. Fathollahi.