“Chabahar is pivotal for regional connectivity”
observance of ‘Chabahar day’ in this city on the Gulf of Oman on February 26, organized
by Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO), marked a milestone in the
evolving India-Iran-Afghanistan strategic axis on developing Chabahar.
conference, the Iranian government made a strong pitch for the port as well as
the Chabahar Free Trade Zone which it’s aiming to establish as a leading hub
for manufacturing, investment, trade and transit.
Abbas Ali Soleymani, in his speech said the port is “important for the peace
and security of Iran.” Describing Chabahar as “a gift from the Almighty”.
Hameed, representing the Sunnis in Sistan Baluchestan province in which
Chabahar is located too extolled the benefits of Chabahar and the progress it
would bring to the region.
of Sistan Baluchestan, Ahmed Ali Mohebati, too made his pitch to draw
investment to what is Iran’s second largest province that also shares a porous
border with Pakistan. “We invite investors to invest in Chabahar. We’ll support
them. We don’t have any limits on the kind of investments that can be made in
the Chabahar Free Trade Zone.”
A measure of
the importance India attaches to the development of Chabahar as a trade and
transit hub was the presence of a large business delegation of the
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at the meet, held in the International
Conference and Exhibition Center of Chabahar Free Zone.
government was represented by shipping secretary Gopal Krishna and Arun Kumar
Gupta, managing director of Indian Ports Global Ltd (IPGL), a public sector
that started operating at Chabahar in December.
In his address
at the conference, Gopal Krishna emphasised the historical ties between New
Delhi and Tehran noting, “an old relationship is being reaffirmed through
Indian investment in Chabahar”. In addition, he also drew attention to what the
future holds for those backing the port. “The direct beneficiary of Chabahar is
landlocked Afghanistan…It’s an opportunity for India to share in the
development of Sistan Balucheistan…It is an important milestone for global
too was represented by a large business delegation at the conference and had
its deputy minister for transport, Imam Mohammad Warymoch, who referred to
India as “bade bhai” (big brother) in his speech that was initially in Hindi.
he was “grateful to both India and Iran for believing in the prosperity and
stability of Afghanistan”, Warymoch further said, “the entire region can
connect and work together for economic prosperity.” For good measure, he added:
“A 100 years from now, I hope historians will remember this day as a turning
point in regional connectivity and cooperation.”
Aqaei, the director-general of the Sistan Baluchestan ports and maritime
department, said: “Our aim is to enhance maritime cooperation among countries
of the region. The port has two container and three general cargo berths and
ships of any size can enter it.” For, the port has a draft (depth) of 16 meters
and can accommodate large ships.
pivotal for regional connectivity,” remarked the Indian diplomat. And the
Iranians are in agreement. “It is the gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia and
Europe too. If India wants to access Europe, the shortest, safest and cheapest
route is through Iran.”
Kumar Gupta, managing director of Indian Ports Global Ltd said “Geographically,
the port is very well-located. It’s on the cross-route of the North-South and
East-West corridors.” Gupta also drew attention to the Zaranj-Delaram highway
which in turn is connected to the Garland Highway—the latter connects the major
Afghan cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Kunduz.
highway has played a useful role in enabling the distribution of wheat
shipments that have gone from India to Afghanistan (via Chabahar) to its
various regions. India is also assisting Iran with a 500-km rail link between
Chabahar and Zahedan.