Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani discuss Chabahar port progress

“[The leaders] especially mentioned operationalisation of Chabahar Port and noted it’s importance as gateway to and for the landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian region,” a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said.

Published - September 27, 2019 01:46 am IST - New York

PM Modi meets President Hassan Rouhani in New York on Thursday.

PM Modi meets President Hassan Rouhani in New York on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met on Thursday along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s 74th session in New York. The two leaders discussed progress on Iran’s Chabahar Port — which India is helping to develop.

“They [the leaders] especially mentioned operationalisation of Chabahar Port and noted it’s importance as gateway to and for the landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian region,” a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

The meeting comes at a difficult time in the relationship between the two countries. India has stopped orders for Iranian oil since May 2 following U.S. sanctions that kicked in last November, after it Washington pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) , an international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program. India was one of the countries that was given an exemption from these sanctions until early May.

Despite a sanction carve out for India’s participation in the construction and development of Iran’s Chabahar port — a strategic project that would connect India, Afghanistan and Iran to Central Asia, while circumventing Pakistan — work on the project was “very slow”, Ali Chegeni, Iran’s envoy to India, had told The Hindu earlier this month. Mr Chegeni had also said that India should not have cooperated with U.S. sanctions.

“[The] Prime Minister reiterated India's support for giving priority to diplomacy, dialogue and confidence building in the interest of maintaining peace, security and stability in the Gulf region, which is of vital importance for India,” the MEA statement said.

The meeting comes a day before Mr. Modi’s UNGA address and a day after Mr Rouhani’s, in which the Iranian leader had said Iran would not talk to the U.S. unless sanctions were lifted.

European countries, such as France and Germany had hoped to arrange a meeting between Mr. Rouhani and U.S. President Donald Trump. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that Mr Trump had enlisted his help in mediation and that he had spoken with Mr Rouhani. However, Mr. Trump left New York shortly after noon on Friday without having met Mr Rouhani.

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