Chabahar Port should be included in North-South Transport Corridor: Indian foreign minister stresses on connectivity with Central Asia

Stressing on the need for enhanced regional connectivity, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday proposed that the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran be included in the North-South Transport Corridor that has the potential to bridge connectivity barriers, as he agreed on a roadmap for future course of cooperation and exchanges during bilateral talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan

Oct 14, 2021
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Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar

Stressing on the need for enhanced regional connectivity, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday proposed that the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran be included in the North-South Transport Corridor that has the potential to bridge connectivity barriers, as he agreed on a roadmap for future course of cooperation and exchanges during bilateral talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan. Jaishankar was speaking at a joint press meet with Armenian Foreign Minister Mirzoyan following their meeting in Yerevan.

Jaishankar on Tuesday arrived in Armenia on the last leg of his three-nation tour to Central Asia with an aim to further expand bilateral ties and discuss key regional issues including the developments in Afghanistan. It is the first-ever visit by an Indian foreign minister to Armenia.

 “Both India and Armenia are members of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which has the potential to bridge the connectivity barrier. So Minister Mirzoyan and I discussed the interest which Armenia has shown in utilisation of the Chabahar Port in Iran and being developed by India,” Jaishankar said in his remarks.

“We also proposed the Chabahar Port be included in the International North-South Transport Corridor; we welcome the use of the Chabahar Port and any other initiative that will encourage regional connectivity,” he said. The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port located at a distance of around 80 km from Chabahar, PTI news agency said.

The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December 2017 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. The Chabahar port is being considered as a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.

On asked about India’s interest in developing the Chabahar Port, Jaishankar said, “We are interested because if we develop more ports in Iran and then connectivity from those ports to northwards of Iran, it opens up more trade routes which are land-based, which are more efficient than these sea-based routes.

“So the key today to economic progress is to be more competitive in terms of movement of goods and that is why this is important and, at least, I mentioned Chabahar to the minister because it is a port in Iran which India is developing and for us it opens up a pathway at least one side to the Caucasus (intersection of Europe and Asia), opens up a different pathway to Central Asia and it is an initiative that we are working with the Russians very closely.”

He said that connectivity today is a very important subject of international collaboration. “Now, we saw just a little while ago what happened at the Suez Canal and how much it disrupted trade between Europe and Asia. So for us, the International North-South Transport Corridor is a very, very important initiative. We have invested a lot of energy, given it a lot of priority and we, I think, all our participation (member countries) will add more options and more possibilities to an initiative which has been under discussion,” he said.

He said that one important bridge between India and Armenia is the presence of a large number of Indian students. “There are almost, I think, 3,000 of them who are pursuing medical education in Armenia. We very greatly appreciate the efforts of the government of Armenia and people for the welfare of the Indian community, in particular the students during the pandemic,” he said.

He said that Armenian heritage in India has been preserved with great care and respect of all traditions and the Armenian community’s contributions to India’s progress has been noteworthy. “We recognise that Armenia has gone through a very difficult phase last year, so let me take the opportunity to convey my sincere condolences on behalf of the government and the people of India to the Armenian people, especially those who lost their near and dear ones,” he said.

Jaishankar, accompanied by Mirozyan, also paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at his statue in Yerevan. “Together, we planted a tree of friendship,” he said