HomeIndian DefenceIndia to ink 10-year Chabahar Port pact with Tehran on Monday

India to ink 10-year Chabahar Port pact with Tehran on Monday

NEW DELHI: India is set to sign an agreement with Iran to manage Chabahar Port for the next 10 years. The move, in the midst of hectic election season, is regarded as a significant geopolitical outreach to Iran that will have major regional ramifications.

ET has reliably learnt that shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal is to travel to Iran for the signing on Monday.

This is the first time India will take over management of a port overseas. The port, which is seen as India’s key connectivity link to Afghanistan, Central Asia and the larger Eurasian space, will help counterbalance Pakistan’s Gwadar port as well as China’s Belt and Road Initiative. There are plans to link Chabahar with the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that connects India with Russia via Iran. The port will enable India to bypass Pakistan to access Afghanistan, and ultimately Central Asia.

Timing Significant
The MEA in April approved a proposal by India Ports Global to take over operations at Myanmar’s Sittwe Port in the Bay of Bengal. That Sonowal is traveling during a crucial poll campaign reflects the importance of the pact that has been in the making for some years now, experts said. The pact will enable India to run the port, the expansion of which it has financed. The timing of the visit is also significant as it comes in the thick of the West Asia crisis that has impacted key trade routes.

Long-Standing Ties

Chabahar figured prominently in talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Iranian President last year at the BRICS summit in South Africa in August, and later in November, when they spoke over the phone on the Gaza crisis.A pact on Chahbahar had been signed in 2016 during Modi’s visit to Iran. In 2018, when Hassan Rouhani, then Iran president, visited India, the issue of expanding India’s role at the port figured prominently. It also came up when foreign minister S Jaishankar was in Tehran in January 2024.

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The new long-term agreement is intended to replace the original contract. The new agreement will be valid for 10 years and will be automatically extended.

The original pact only covers operations at the Shahid Beheshti terminal of Chabahar Port and is renewed every year. India signed a tripartite agreement with Iran and Afghanistan to develop the Shahid Beheshti terminal in May 2016. Resource-rich but landlocked Central Asian states such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have been keen to utilise Chabahar to access the Indian Ocean Region and the Indian market. The port will also be handy for Indian traders and investors interested in Central Asia.

Pakistan has been trying to woo the Central Asian states to utilise Karachi port to access the Indian Ocean Region. However, India has been indicating to the Central Asian countries that Chabahar will be a more attractive proposition. Armenia is also keen to get attached to the Chabahar port through the INSTC.

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