India has assured Iran that it will fast track the $1.6 billion-Chabahar rail link project, which will connect the port on the southern coast of the Gulf nation to the eastern city of Zahedan on the border with Afghanistan.
This came after Iran complained to India about lack of progress in implementation of the project. The matter came up for discussion during the recent visit of minister for road transport and highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari to Iran for the swearing-in ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, sources said.
The minister has ordered to take up the matter with IRCON (IRCON International Ltd, the state-run company to which the contact has been given) as a priority and sort out the matter, sources said.
India plans to develop the Chabahar port, which would give it access to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia through its Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla ports on the west coast without having to go through Pakistan.
But the agreement to build the 500-km rail link lapsed in April.
During deliberations, the Iranian government asked the Indian delegation if it was serious about building the railway link as no efforts seem to have come up, sources said.
In May 2016, India and Iran inked 12 agreements including one for India’s IRCON to build the 500-km railway line as part of a transit corridor to Afghanistan. The agreements were signed in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Iran.
“They complained that the agreement had lapsed and IRCON hasn’t informed if it has managed to arrange for the funds for the rail project. The Indian delegation sought time and assured the Iranian government about India’s commitment,” the second official cited above said.
India has already built a 218-km road link connecting Delaram with Zaranj in Afghanistan, which is adjacent to the border with Iran. The Chabahar port, located in Sistan-Baluchestan province on Iran’s south-eastern coast, will also promote India’s strategic interests in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
Experts say procedural issues should be resolved fast by India to leverage the opportunity that Iran offers.
The Chabahar port, located in the Gulf of Oman near Iran’s border with Pakistan, is less than 100km from Pakistan’s Chinese-constructed port of Gwadar, part of a project to open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf to western China.
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