Chabahar Port functional & Indian company handling cargo: MEA in Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Afghanistan has sent five consignments to India from Iran’s Chabahar port since February 2019, the ministry of external affairs told Lok Sabha in what can be viewed as rebutting reports alleging the port’s Phase-1 developed and run by India is dysfunctional after US decided to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

India Ports Global Limited took over port operations in December 2018 and has been successfully handling cargo since then, according to a written reply provided by MEA to Lok Sabha responding to a query on status of India’s role in the strategically located port.

Chabahar port is a major regional initiative by India to ensure connectivity to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and other parts of Eurasia in the backdrop of Pakistan’s denial of connectivity through its territory. The port has also received consignments from India and elsewhere for Afghanistan.

“India is participating in the development of the first phase of Shahid Behesti Port in Chabahar in cooperation with the government of Islamic Republic of Iran. The Indian company, India Ports Global Limited, has taken over port operations in December 2018 and has been successfully handling cargo since then. Afghanistan has also started using the port facility. It has sent its first consignment to India through Chabahar port in February 2019. Subsequently, it has sent four more consignments to India through Chabahar port,” the ministry’s reply read.

The ministry informed Lok Sabha that the “US has shown understanding of the importance of the Chabahar port operations for continued humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan and to provide Afghanistan with economic alternatives” indicating that the port has been kept out of the purview of sanctions.

In November 2018, the US granted a six-month waiver to India, China, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to continue importing oil from Iran. The temporary waiver ended on May 2. In May last year, the US brought back sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal which was struck in 2015.

As part of the bilateral agreement, India is to extend grant assistance of nearly $85 million and a credit facility of $ 150 million for Chabahar port development. India-Afghanistan-Iran have trilateral pact for the use of Chabahar port. India also plans to connect the port via rail to the Afghan border besides investing in the Special Economic Zone in the port. India had earlier announced investment to the tune of $500 million for Chabahar port complex.

“There have been media reports about interest expressed by other countries to participate in the development of Chabahar port. It is for the government of Iran to decide and choose the partner for development of different phases of the Chabahar port. India continues to partner in the development and operation of Shahid Behesti Port, Chabahar,” the MEA noted.