India takes over Iran’s strategic Chabahar port’s operations, bypassing Pakistan on way to Afghanistan

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Monday (24th December, 2018) India formally took over operations in Iran’s Chabahar port, resulting in a major boost to the country’s efforts to support war -torn Afghanistan.

The efforts of New Delhi to develop the port, which allows India to bypass Pakistan to ship their supplies to Afghanistan, received a fillip recently in November when Washington exempted Chabahar from Iran-related sanctions.

During a first meeting of the follow-up committee for the implementation of the Chabahar Agreement between Iran, Afghanistan, and India in the capital city Tehran , Iran formally handed over the port to India.The joint secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) Deepak Mittal of the external affairs ministry led the Indian side at the meeting, while Mohammad Ali Hassanzadeh, the deputy head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation,led the Iranian team, the people said.

An official from New Delhi said “This is a major step forward in India’s efforts to support Afghanistan and also for regional cooperation”.

The Sistan-Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Department’s director general, Mr. Behrouz Aqaei was quoted by Irna news agency as saying that India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) has “officially started to run Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar”and the major tasks for the company include loading & unloading operations, marketing & procurement.

Matters such as customs tariffs, promoting customs transactions and rail transit, and the transportation process were being discussed at the meeting, Aqaei said. Finalising the protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters for making the port attractive and to decrease logistic costs were also discussed at the meeting.

In June 2015 the Chabahar agreement was signed and approved by Iran’s Guardian Council in November 2016. It is being seen as a gateway for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries.

For developing the port EXIM Bank is to extend a line of credit of $150 million and another $85 million was allotted for supplying equipment to develop two berths at Chabahar as per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in May 2015.

Also in a separate development, a senior official of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) said on Monday that India and Iran are on the verge of finalising a “preferential trade” agreement that will come into effect in the near future.

Head of the Asia and Oceania Trade Office in the TPO,Mr. Mojtaba Mousavian said talks between the two sides regarding the agreement have been fruitful and the pact is set to be implemented within the next month,as reported by Mehr news agency.

Tariffs would be reduced from each side on 80 to 100 products purchased from the other country, said Mousavian. According to Mousavian, methanol, tar, propane, urea, butane, iron, dates and pistachio are among the products shipped from Iran that will enjoy reduction in tariffs. In exchange, the initial list of Indian goods that are included are tea, carbon electrodes, aluminium oxide, paper, rice, sesame & medical supplements.

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