In a last minute decision, Union Minister of Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has been ordered to pack his bags to travel to Iran by the prime minister’s office. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be signing the trilateral Chabahar agreement during his two day trip to Iran from May 22-23, which will open up the strategic Iranian port to India and Afghanistan.
The Chabahar route will allow Indian goods to reach Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar without crossing Pakistan’s territory. The Union Cabinet in February this year has approved credit of USD 150 million from EXIM Bank for development of Chabahar Port.
“We received a communication from PMO Thursday morning that minister (Gadkari) is required to accompany the PM during Iran trip as Chabahar port agreement is on the agenda,” said sources in the shipping ministry.
India is negotiating this project to facilitate the growing trade and investment with Iran and other countries in the region, notably Afghanistan and also to provide opportunities to Indian companies to penetrate and enhance their footprint in the region.
Chabahar Port lies outside the Persian Gulf in Iran and will help in expanding maritime commerce in the region. Decided in 2003 it got delayed due to western sanctions on Iran.
An MoU was signed between India and Iran on in May 2015 during Gadkari’s visit to Tehran which equipped New Delhi to operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a ten year lease.
Ownership of equipment will be transferred to Iranian side on completion of 10 year period or for an extended period, based on mutual agreement. The Iranian side had requested for provision of a credit of USD 150 million in accordance with the MoU. As per the MoU, operation of two berths will commence within a period of maximum 18 months after the signing of the Contract.
The two berths will be operated by the India Ports Global Private Limited, a Company promoted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust – two major ports working under the Ministry of Shipping.