India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahamnian Jaishankar has said that New Delhi and Tehran have been discussing several additional measures to make Iranian port of Chabahar more commercially attractive. The statement came against the backdrop of continuing US sanctions on Iran, that is hampering bilateral trade between New Delhi and Tehran.
“I had discussed with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to make Chabahar port commercially more attractive during our interaction in September 2019 and this January. We are discussing to take more additional measures to make the port, in a sense, more relevant to the current traffic,” Jaishankar said while addressing an industry event in New Delhi.
In the Union Budget presented last week, India allocated $13.9 million for the Chabahar Port for fiscal 2020-21.
"It shows India’s commitment towards the development of Chabahar and our determination to develop it as a viable connectivity option," Jaishankar said while adding that India’s connectivity initiatives through the International North South Transport Corridor and the Ashgabat Agreement would also continue.
The Indian minister also launched "India - Central Asia Business Council" which is a platform to promote trade and investments fostering inter country economic development and dialogue.
Earlier, it was reported in local media that the project work related to the development of Chabahar has been delayed as most of the European suppliers are unwilling to join the project, citing US sanctions. However, the Indian foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the US had shown an understanding of the importance of the Chabahar Port for India and landlocked Afghanistan.
During the 2+2 foreign and defence ministers level dialogue in December 2019, the US gave India written assurances that confirmed the special exemption to US sanctions of the Chabahar port and its rail link.
India has been pushing ahead with the development of Chabahar port in a joint trilateral project with Iran and Afghanistan to boost regional maritime transit traffic to Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. In May 2019, India ceased purchasing crude oil from Iran – its third largest energy supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia – after US waivers from energy sanctions granted by the Trump administration expired. American sanctions have crippled the bilateral trade between India and Iran since 2019. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said that bilateral trade fell to $7 billion down from $17 billion in 2018.