India and Iran on Monday signed a highly anticipated deal on the Chabahar port, which lies in a free trade zone, which will be of great strategic value to the South Asian nation. The deal was signed as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tehran on Monday. India will invest billions of dollars in building and developing the port, giving it access to Afghanistan, Russia and Europe without having to go through Pakistan, PTI reported.
Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said, "The distance between Kandla and the Chabahar port is less than the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai, and so what this agreement does is to enable us quick movement of goods first to Iran and then onwards to Afghanistan and Russia through a new rail and road link."
In February, India had approved a credit line of $150 million (Rs 1,000 crore) towards the project in an effort to sidestep Pakistan and improve its access especially to Afghanistan, where it has security and economic interests.
Modi had arrived in Tehran, Iran, on Sunday with an aim to boost the two countries’ trade, investment, infrastructure and energy partnerships. Modi was received at Mehrabad International Airport by Ali Tayyebnia, the country’s Finance and Economic Affairs Minister. He later went to visit a gurdwara, and interacted with people of Indian origin who live in the country.
Speaking to local news channels, Modi mentioned the importance of the two countries signing the Chabahar port agreement. India is also looking to double its oil imports from the energy-rich nation. Among other interests in Iran, India has been trying to secure rights to develop the Farzad B gas field, an offshore block that the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India had discovered there in 2008.
“Iran is part of our extended neighbourhood, an important country in the region and one of India’s valuable partners. We are connected with each other by the shared history and civilisational ties,” said Modi, according to PTI. While he refused to comment on which agreements would actually be signed, he said India was “confident of concrete outcomes”.
Economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the West were lifted in January, after it agreed to comply with a deal to curb its nuclear ambitions. India has been looking to up its investments in the country ever since.