New Delhi: India has proposed the inclusion of Chabahar port in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) route, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday, and expressed hope that member states involved with the INSTC will agree on expanding membership of this project.
In his address on ‘Chabahar Day’ at the Maritime India Summit 2021, Jaishankar said the shift in the fulcrum of global economic growth towards Asia is creating unprecedented opportunities for connectivity in the region.
He asserted that the marking of Chabahar Day by India reflects its strong commitment to enhancing regional connectivity.
Jaishankar said India has also proposed the inclusion of Chabahar in the INSTC route.
The INSTC is an important trade corridor project, wherein India is partnering with 12 countries to establish an economic corridor, he said.
The International North South Transport Corridor is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
“We also welcome the interest of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to join the multilateral corridor project. Establishing an eastern corridor through Afghanistan would maximize its potential,” he said.
“I am hopeful that during the INSTC Coordination Council meeting, member states would agree to the expansion of the INSTC route to include the Chabahar Port and also agree on expanding the membership of this project,” he said.
Jaishankar also said that as the world goes through a fundamental re-balancing, correcting many distortions of the past, it is only natural that connectivity should be central to that exercise.
He said the shift in the fulcrum of global economic growth towards Asia is creating unprecedented opportunities for connectivity in the region.
“There is a huge infrastructure deficit in the region which needs to be met to fulfil growing aspirations of our people,” he asserted.
Noting that in the modern age, the correlation between connectivity and economic growth has got even more pronounced, Jaishankar said growth in trade, commerce, industrial development and technological advancement has gone hand in hand with ease of connecting.
Maritime connectivity, in particular, has played a significant role in creating regional corridors for trade and economic linkages, as indeed for cultural and intellectual exchanges over the centuries, he pointed out and added that they too assume a new prominence in contemporary times, for being more competitive, seamless and greener.
The access of land-locked economies to maritime movements has been a focus of recent initiatives, he said.
The government of India, recognising the importance of regional connectivity, made a landmark decision to undertake an overseas port investment in Chabahar, he said
While this project had been under discussion for some time, it was during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016 that a trilateral agreement to establish an International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan, he said.
Jaishankar said transport and transit corridor is intended to ensure unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region and to create a safe, and reliable route to trade initially with Afghanistan, and thereafter with Central Asia.
The establishment and operations of India Ports Global Ltd at Shahid Behesti Port in Chabahar is the practical realisation of this important initiative, he said and lauded Ports, Shipping and Waterways Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and his team, as well as his Iranian partners, for the steady growth of port operations.
In a short while, they have established both its credibility and its relevance, Jaishankar said.
“Today’s event reflects India’s strong commitment to work together with all regional stakeholders to enhance connectivity in our region and to provide unhindered access to the sea to landlocked Central Asian countries through Chabahar,” he said.
Today’s event also commemorates five years of the signing of the tripartite agreement on establishment of a Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor, he said, asserting that the agreement is a fitting tribute to the rich civilisational, cultural and trade links among India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.
Jaishankar highlighted that the Chabahar port has not only emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region but also facilitated delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The port is part of our shared commitment towards peace, stability and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan. India has utilized the Chabahar port to ship 75,000 MT of wheat as humanitarian food assistance to Afghanistan in September 2020,” he pointed out.
India also assisted Iran to fight the worst ever locust invasion in the last 25 years by supplying 25 metric tonnes of Malathion in June 2020, again through the Chabahar port, he said.
The second batch of 25 metric tonnes has recently reached the port, he added.
Jaishankar said that besides Indian exports of food products, the port has handled several shipments and trans-shipments from Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine and the UAE.
Jaishankar said the search for efficient trade routes and better connectivity has been one of the powerful driving forces of history and has determined prospects of many nations, regions and civilizations over time.
The virtual event, besides Jaishankar and Mandaviya, also saw participation of ministers from Afghanistan, Armenia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan.
The location of the Chabahar port has strategic advantage and high potential to provide connectivity among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and other Commonwealth of Independent States countries, and boost trade.
Located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran’s southern coast, the port can be easily accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan.