Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed India signing a contract to operate the strategic Iranian port of Chabahar as an important milestone and said New Delhi will work to provide connectivity to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia region to promote trade and commerce.

In an interview to PTI, he said India will work to promote regional connectivity, trade and commerce through not just the Chabahar port but also through the International North South Transport Corridor as also the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor.

Since coming to power in 2014, Modi said, his government gave precedence to Chabahar Port. “In 2016, during my visit to Iran, the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan was signed, in order to provide the much-needed connectivity to Afghanistan.” An Indian company took over the port operations a few years ago, and since then it is being used by India to provide “humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan including wheat, pulses, pesticides, medical supplies”.

“The recent signing of the long-term agreement for the development of Chabahar Port is an important milestone,” he said.

India had on May 13 signed a 10-year agreement to operate the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman, providing Indian goods a gateway to reach landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia using a road and rail project called International North-South Transport Corridor, bypassing Pakistan.

“India will work for ensuring that our efforts promote regional connectivity, trade and commerce, including to and from the landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asia region. This is also embedded in our vision to promote connectivity including through the International North South Transport Corridor, as also the India-Middle East -Europe. Modi said.

The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) comprises 7,200 kilometres of sea, rail and road lines crossing numerous borders to help transport goods from India to Russia via Iran as an alternative to the conventional Suez Canal route. It connects the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and then to St. Petersburg and North European via the Russian Federation.

“In this era of globalisation, connectivity plays an important role. It is our endeavour to provide connectivity especially to those countries which are landlocked,” the prime minister said. “I have always found deep interest among the leaders of the Central Asian countries to use this port for getting access to the sea and connect to India.” The long-term agreement for Chabahar port was signed by Indian Ports Global Limited (IPGL) and the Port & Maritime Organisation of Iran. IPGL is to invest about USD 120 million while another USD 250 million will be raised as debt.

It replaced an initial 2016 pact, which covered India’s operations at Shahid Beheshti terminal in Chabahar port and had been renewed on an annual basis.

Chabahar port was last year used by India to send 20,000 tonnes of wheat aid to Afghanistan. In 2021, the same was used to supply environment-friendly pesticides to Iran.