Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, was present at the inauguration and oath-taking ceremony of Dr Hassan Rouhani as the President of Iran for a second term.
Gadkari held wide ranging discussions on many issues, including India’s cooperation in the development of Chabahar port and the proposed rail link between Chabahar and Zahedan. In the meetings, both sides positively assessed the progress in implementation of the decisions taken during the Prime Minister’s visit to Iran last year, including the progress of Chabahar port. Both sides reiterated their commitment to complete and operationalise the port at the earliest.
Gadkari highlighted the issue of activation of contract of Chabahar port development and conveyed to him that India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) has finalised procurement of critical equipment such as rail-mounted gantry cranes, and is close to finalising orders relating to rubber-tyred mobile cranes, container handlers, truck and tractor-trailers, containers, etc. He also conveyed India’s readiness to aid Iran in taking up operations in Chabahar port during the interim period between the actual activation of contract. He requested the Iranian side for early submission of loan application for Chabahar port development to EXIM Bank of India so that the contract agreement between the two countries can be activated. It may be recalled that the Iranian side had requested India to provide up to $150 million credit and had made it a condition for activation of the port contract. The application for loan to EXIM Bank of India is still awaited.
Later, Gadkari met with Abbas Akhoundi, the Iranian Minister for Roads and Urban Development, and conveyed to him the latest update on procurement of equipment for the two terminals—multipurpose and container— that are covered under the Chabahar port agreement. He also requested Dr Akhoundi that in the interest of supporting operations of Chabahar port, the Iranian side should consider waiving off the condition of submission of loan application as it was taking time. The Iranian side assured that the application will be presented to EXIM Bank of India soon.
In his meeting with Dr Akhoundi, Gadkari stressed upon the need for marketing of Chabahar port to attract cargo. He said Iran and India should jointly organise a workshop at Chabahar for this purpose at an early date. He also emphasised the need to develop rail connectivity from Chabahar to Zahedan, and said that the MoU with India in this regard may be extended. The issue of ratification of the trilateral Transit Agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan was also discussed. While India and Afghanistan have ratified the agreement, Iran is yet to do so.