Special Correspondent

Wants to work for IPI gas pipeline

Link will give Iran all-weather access to Afghanistan

Gas pipeline project will help establish security in the region

NEW DELHI: Iran on Monday said India could soon have a sea-cum-land route that would give Indian goods access to Afghanistan and further on to Central Asian countries, bypassing Pakistan.

Tehran also said that as a friend of both Pakistan and India, it would “have to play a role” in reducing tensions between the two countries and ensure that differences over the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline are overcome.

Speaking to journalists here, Iran’s Ambassador in India Syed Mahdi Nabizadeh said Iran was attempting to make its Chabar port viable by declaring it a free trade zone and improving the logistical infrastructure. A road or rail line from the port could take Indian goods to the Afghan border.

From there, a 217-km India-built road from the Afghan border town of Zaranj will provide the last-mile connectivity to Delaram located on the “garland highway” of Afghanistan which connects most of its major cities, including Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz. Some of the offshoots of this road, also called the North-South corridor, go into Central Asia.

The link would also give Iran an all-weather access into Afghanistan . As the Iranian Ambassador noted, “Both India and Iran have tried to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. However, elements in Afghanistan tried to deny Iran a role in the reconstruction. But we were able to provide useful help in the construction of infrastructure and other important facilities. Our help in the form of manpower and construction material was also instrumental in the construction of the Zaranj-Delaram road.”

Observing that neighbours should tolerate each other, Mr. Nabizadeh said Iran held the view that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan would not be able to establish peace and security in the country.

On the IPI gas pipeline, he felt the project would materialise. “Though there is the issue of security in between, we believe it can be removed by trilateral agreements and dialogue.” Iran’s agreement with Pakistan has been framed in such a way that India could join it in future. “But we hope the delay will not be so long that there is no room for India. We believe the implementation of the project will help in the establishment of security in the region.”