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Diplomacy

'Unprofessional and Imbalanced Move': Tehran After Adani Ports Ban Container Trade from Iran

On October 11, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone had announced that its terminals would no longer handle cargo from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan from November 15.

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New Delhi: Iran has criticised the decision to ban the import and export of containerised cargo from Iranian ports to all terminals by India’s private largest port operator, Adani Ports, as an “unprofessional and imbalanced move” following a meeting between heads of anti-narcotics control agencies of the two countries.

On Monday, October 11, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone had announced that its terminals would no longer handle cargo from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan from November 15. “This trade advisory will apply to all terminals operated by (Adani Ports) and including third party terminals at any (company) port till further notice,” said Adani Ports in a statement.

No reason was given for taking this step, however, this comes three weeks after Indian authorities had seized three tonnes of heroin worth $2.65 billion from containers at Mundra ports run by Adani Ports. The two containers had been declared as semi-processed talc stones from Afghanistan and shipped via Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.

An Adani spokesperson also added that no port operator in India had the authority to examine containers.

The Iranian embassy in New Delhi issued a series of tweets on its official account on Wednesday after a virtual meeting between officials of security agencies dealing with anti-narcotics trafficking.

The Narcotic Control Bureau director general S.N. Pradhan led the Indian delegation of representatives from NCB and the ministry of external affairs. The readout from the Indian side was that both had committed to increasing cooperation, especially in the fight against the smuggling of heroin and methamphetamine.

“Decision was also taken to establish focal points at both agencies for real-time sharing of information,” posted NCB.

In contrast to the concise summary from NCB, the Iranian side had a long note on the embassy’s Twitter account that delved into challenges faced by Iran’s drug control agencies due to proximity to unstable Afghanistan, which has seen a rise in narcotics production.

In the tweet thread, Iran deplored that despite having suffered from trade sanctions and even being “praised” by the UN for its narcotics control, it had “once again being targeted unfairly through denial of trade and banning its consignments as an unprofessional and imbalanced move!”

However, there was no mention of Adani Ports by name, but the tweet just two days after the decision clearly indicated Tehran’s strongly-worded response.

The Iranian embassy also tweeted that the “sudden” withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan was the root cause for the “recent surge in all chaos, insecurity, and exacerbation of drug trafficking in the region”.

Adani Ports operates 10 ports across India, including Mundra, the largest container handling port in the country.

An Economic Times report dated October 11 quoted an unnamed Adani executive claiming that the move was taken “in the national interest”. It also cited industry officials as stating that the decision was taken by Adanis alone, “without any government mandate”.

Sources confirmed that the ministry of external affairs had not been consulted before the private firm, now the largest port operator in India, decided to stop trade with three foreign countries. It is not known if Adani Ports had consulted or conveyed its decision to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, which is the line ministry.

A response has been sought from the Adani Group. This article will be updated once it is received.