Sushma makes Iran stopover on eve of Chabahar port inaugural

It opens Afghanistan and Central Asia to Indian commerce.

December 02, 2017 08:31 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 05:01 pm IST - New Delhi

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran on December 2, 2017. Photo: @MEAIndia

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran on December 2, 2017. Photo: @MEAIndia

Indicating continued commitment to build strong bilateral ties, India and Iran held talks on Saturday even as preparations got under way for the Sunday inauguration of the port of Chabahar which will open Afghanistan and Central Asia to Indian commerce. Saturday’s talks were held in Tehran where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an unannounced stopover on her way back from Sochi, Russia, where the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Council of Heads of Governments meeting was held.

“Inauguration of Chabahar port was discussed between the two sides,” said a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs to a question on what the agenda of the lunchon meeting between Ms. Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif was.

The inauguration of the first phase of the port, known as the Shahid Beheshti port, is likely to be attended by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Minister of State for Finance and Shipping R. Ponniah Ayyappan Radhakrishnan. Representatives from 25 other countries are expected to attend the event, Iranian media reported.

Even as Ms. Swaraj and Mr Zarif sat for talks, Mr. Rouhani arrived in Sistan-Balochistan province in southeast Iran on Saturday where he would also attend connectivity-related events in Zahedan and Zabol. The agreement for the port was sealed last year during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran.

Iran also wants to develop the hinterland of Chabahar for which it seeks broader international collaboration.

The Iranian media reported that Mr. Zarif said the port would expand mutual and regional cooperation and highlighted its significant role in boosting contacts and cooperation between countries in Central Asia with other countries via the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

Laying out India’s plan for Chabahar, Mr. Radhakrishnan said here the port would help India reach out to Afghanistan. “Strategically, Chabahar is very important both for Iran and India. Development of this port will add to the connectivity of the two countries and will also help the link with Afghanistan which is very important to us,” he told IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, declaring that India was looking forward to Mr. Rouhani’s visit at the earliest.

Mr. Radhakrishnan also announced that during his visit to Chabahar he would hold trilateral talks with Afghanistan and Iran on firming up the overall connectivity project to provide Afghanistan an alternative sea route away from Pakistan.

According to the Iranian assessment, the port will reach the annual discharge capacity of 1.8 million tons soon. India on October 29 sent the first of several wheat shipments for Afghanistan through Chabahar. The other shipments are to follow shortly.

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