Indian Firm Takes Over Operations of Strategic Iranian Port Chabahar

Last month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo granted an exception from the newly-imposed sanctions with “respect to the development of Chabahar port".

New Delhi: Over six weeks after getting a waiver from sanctions imposed by the United States, Indian state-owned joint venture India Ports Global Limited formally took over operations at Chabahar’s Shaheed Behesti port on Monday.

The Iranian port city was the venue on Monday for a meeting of officials from Iran, India and Afghanistan, for the first meeting of the “follow-up committee” to operationalise the trilateral Chabahar agreement.

“On the occasion, India Ports Global Limited company opened its office and took over operations at the Shaheed Behesti port at Chabahar,” said a press note issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. IPGL is a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Deendayal port trust for development of foreign ports.

Last month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo granted an exception from the newly-imposed sanctions with “respect to the development of Chabahar port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum product”.

Also read: India Strongly Condemns Terror Attack on Iranian Port City Chabahar

According to the US state department spokesperson, the waiver was given as the development of Chabahar port was “vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief”.

The lease contract for Shahid Beheshti Port-Phase 1 of Chabahar was signed during the visit of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to India in February this year.

An Iranian official quoted by Iran’s Mehr news agency said that IPGL has been granted the lease for “a temporary period of 18 months, and a ten-year period afterwards”. He added that IPGL’s management would include “loading and unloading, supplying equipment and marketing”.

A report in Hindu BusinessLine stated that Iranian company Kaveh Port and Marine Services was to temporarily run the port for 18 months, till IPGL finalised the full-time contractor. There had apparently been a delay in commercial operations, because of difficulty in transferring payment to Kaveh Port and Marine Services.

Besides, the ‘follow-up committee’ agreed to commission a study to determine measures to “make the route attractive, decrease logistic costs and pave the way for smooth operationalisation of the Chabahar Agreement”.

An important decision taken at the meeting in Chabahar was to finalise the routes for the trade and transit corridors.

Also read: India Presents Draft Protocol on Customs, Roads at Chabahar Project Trilateral Meeting

The MEA press release described the discussions for operationalising the trade and transit corridors as “positive and constructive”.

“It was agreed to finalise at the earliest the Protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs, and consular matters. It was agreed to allow cargo movement at Chabahar using TIR Convention provisions,” it added.

The next meeting of the follow-up committee will be held in India in 2019.

The Indian foreign ministry’s press release also noted that an event would be held in February 2019 to promote the port.