Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on August 18 left for Iran on a four-day visit during which he will assess the progress of the first phase of the Chabahar port and interact with senior functionaries of the Central Asian countries and explore business opportunities.
Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the Chabahar port is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan to boost trade ties.
"During my visit to Iran, I will assess the progress of the Chabahar port and look for business opportunities between South Asia and Central Asia," Mr. Sonowal told PTI before leaving for Tehran.
The Minister said he will hold discussions with Iranian government functionaries, meet stakeholders of the Chabahar port and attend business-to-business (B2B) meetings to explore trade potential.
Mr. Sonowal's visit to Iran came a fortnight after India hosted an event on 'Chabahar Day' to promote 'Chabahar — Link to INSTC — Connecting Central Asian Markets'.
The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is India's vision and initiative to reduce the time taken for EXIM shipments to reach Russia and Europe, and enter the Central Asian markets.
"Our vision is to make Chabahar port a transit hub and link it to INSTC to reach out to Central Asian Countries," Mr. Sonowal said.
He said due to the potential of the Central Asian market, the India-led connectivity initiatives help provide secure and commercially-viable access to the Indian Ocean region for Central Asian countries.
He said the Chabahar port is a strategically located facility which can connect Central Asia and also South Asia.
"The Chabahar port will improve the logistics network of the Central Asia and promote joint initiative to create a regional transnational transport corridor which will boost not only India's trade but global trade," Mr. Sonowal said.
In 2015, India agreed to help develop Iran's Chabahar port and an associated railway that would enable India to trade with Afghanistan, unimpeded by Pakistan. After a brief halt, India accelerated the work on Chabahar port last year.
In May 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Iran and signed an agreement to invest $500 million to develop the port and related infrastructure.
During Mr. Modi's visit, India and Iran signed nearly a dozen agreements, centrepiece of which was a deal on development of the strategic Chabahar port.
Later, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement providing for transport of goods among the three countries through the port.
While returning home, Mr. Sonowal will visit Jebel Ali port in United Arab Emirates. The deep port, with its largest man-made harbour, is one of the busiest ports in the world and the busiest port in the Middle-East.