India plans expansion in Iran’s Chabahar, plans afoot to link port with INSTC

India is planning an expansion of Iran‘s strategically located Chabahar Port through the supply of two more cranes, with an eye on playing a key role in the Afghan peace process and following efforts made to revive the nuclear deal by Tehran and world powers.

Shipping minister Mansukh Mandaviya is planning a visit to the Chabahar Port complex in the near future.

India is considering supplying two mobile harbour cranes for the port by the middle of 2021 to handle growing traffic, ET has reliably learnt. These are in addition to two similar cranes New Delhi had supplied earlier this year under a contract valued at more than $25 million.

There are also plans to procure rail-mounted cranes for which bidding is underway, ET has learnt. Until January 31, at least 123 vessels had berthed at the port terminal.

Plans are also afoot to link the port with the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to give an impetus to trade with Russia and Eurasia. Fresh consignments are expected to be traded through the INSTC in near future, ET has learnt. Early operationalisation of the corridor figured prominently during last week’s dialogue between foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov of Russia S Jaishankar of India.

The INSTC is aimed at bringing down time taken for trade between India and Russia and may also enable smoother connectivity with Eurasia and Central Asia. It is one of the key connectivity corridors in the region where Russia has proposed greater Eurasian connectivity.

The Chabahar port expansion will not only enable trade of higher volume but also provide an opportunity to India to widen strategic partnership with Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Both are interested in setting up their terminals at the Chabahar Port complex. Uzbekistan, India and Iran have formed a trilateral format for joint use of the port.

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The Chabahar port has emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region, as well as facilitated the delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. India has utilised the port to ship 75,000 tonnes of wheat as humanitarian food assistance to Afghanistan in September 2020. India also assisted Iran to fight the worst ever locust invasion in the last 25 years by supplying 25 tonnes of malathion in June 2020, again through the Chabahar port. A second batch of 25 tonnes has recently reached the Port.

The port has also handled several shipments and trans-shipments from Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine and the UAE.

A recent US Congressional report has claimed that India accelerated work on the Chabahar Port in early 2021 and the port was expected to be declared operational no later than this May. The report pointed out that Iran’s economic relations with Pakistan were less extensive than those with India.

The report, prepared by experts, is not considered as an official document of the US Congress.



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