A historic deal to develop the Chabahar port in Iran, which will open up access to central Asia, was signed in Tehran on Monday after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Hassan Rouhani.
“Chabahar can become very big symbol of cooperation between Iran and India,” the Iran President said after the pact was signed. PM Modi said: “India and Iran are not new friends. Our dosti is as old as history.”
This is the first foreign port in which India is involved to this extent. The port in the Gulf of Oman on Iran’s southern coast with Afghanistan will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and central Asia using a sea-land route.
Pakistan does not allow India to send goods through its territory to Afghanistan and has only recently begun to allow a trickle of Afghan exports to cross through to India.
India will help develop the port and invest around $200 million to develop terminals and cargo berths at Chabahar. A 500-km railway line between Chabahar and Zahedan will also be built with Indian collaboration.
India’s move is also being seen as a balance to China’s influence in Pakistan. India wants to develop the port as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which was built with Chinese assistance and is 72 km from Chabahar.
PM Modi was given a ceremonial welcome before his meeting with the Iran President, described by the foreign ministry as a “restricted tete-a-tete”.
PM Modi’s visit — the first by a Indian Prime Minister in 15 years — comes four months after the sanctions on Iran were lifted and the international community is re-engaging with the nation.