Reports on Iran projects speculative: India

New Delhi (NVI): India today dismissed as speculative the reports which claimed that it had been ousted by Iran from the projects of Chabahar Port and the Chabahar-Zahidan railway line in the Persian country.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava told a media briefing here that India and Iran have a longstanding commitment since 2003 regarding the Chabahar Port which was finally operationalised in 2016 during the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran.

“Since then, despite the difficulties posed by the sanctions situation, there has been significant progress on the Port project,” he said. Iran is under American sanctions over its nuclear programme and countries and their entities have been warned by the US against doing business with the Persian nation.

Srivastava said an Indian company has been operating the Port since 2018 and has steadily scaled up the traffic at the Port.

Since December 2018, 82 vessels have been handled there, including 52 in the last 12 months alone, he said, adding the port handled 12 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo and 8200 containers.

“Proactive measures are currently underway to increase the usage of Chabahar Port, both for Afghanistan and Central Asia,” the MEA spokesman said.

Talking about the proposed railway line, he said IRCON was appointed by the Government of India to assess the feasibility of the project and it was working with CDTIC, an Iranian company under their Ministry of Railways in that regard.

“IRCON has completed the site inspection and review of the feasibility report. Detailed discussions were thereafter held on other relevant aspects of the project, which had to take into account the financial challenges that Iran was facing,” Srivastava said.

In December 2019, these issues were reviewed in detail at the 19th India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting in Tehran and the Iranian side was to nominate an authorized entity to finalize outstanding technical and financial issues, the spokesman said, adding “This is still awaited.”

He said there have also been some reports regarding the Farzad-B Gas field negotiations in which ONGC was involved in the discovery stage.

“Follow-up bilateral cooperation was, however, impacted by policy changes on the Iranian side. In January 2020, we were informed that in the immediate future, Iran would develop the field on its own and would like to involve India appropriately at a later stage. This matter remains under discussion,” he said.

Earlier, a deputy of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organisation Farhad Montaser was quoted by an Iranian news agency as saying that Iran had “not inked any deal with India regarding the Chabahar-Zahedan railway.”

“Iran has only signed two agreements with Indians for investment in Chabahar — one is related to the port’s machinery and equipment, and the second is related to India’s investment to the tune of $150 million,” Montaser was quoted as saying.

He made it clear that the US “sanctions have nothing to do to Iran-India cooperation in Chabahar”.

The US had in 2018 agreed to a waiver on Chabahar port projects under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act (IFCA) of 2012.