Iran, Afghanistan, India sign three-way transit accord

The accord will significantly boost the role of the undertapped port of Chabahar, connecting Iran through India and Afghanistan to central Asia

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Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday signed a three-way transit agreement on Iran’s southern port of Chabahar.

The accord will significantly boost the role of the undertapped port of Chabahar, connecting Iran through India and Afghanistan to central Asia, the Iranian presidency said on its website.

“Today is an important and historical day of development of relations between the three countries,” Rowhani said in a televised speech, seated between the two other leaders.

“From Tehran, New Delhi and Kabul, this is a crucial message ... that the path to progress for regional countries goes through joint cooperation and utilizing regional opportunities.”

Earlier, Modi said India is to open a $500-million line of credit to develop Chabahar port into a regional trading hub.

“The bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port and related infrastructure, and availability of about $500 million from India for this purpose, is an important milestone,” Modi said.

‘Comprehensive economic relations’

Rowhani said Iran and India had decided to transform their trading links to the level of “comprehensive economic relations.”

He and Modi witnessed the signing of 12 memorandums of understanding, two of them on Chabahar port, on the Gulf of Oman.

They include a deal between Iran’s Maritime and Ports Organization and India’s EXIM bank to work out the details of a line of credit to develop Chabahar.

“With India’s investment in the development and equipping of Chabahar port and also the credits intended from this country for Chabahar, this port can turn into a great symbol of cooperation between Iran and India,” Rowhani said.

Modi arrived in Iran on Sunday on a visit aimed at boosting trade following the lifting of international sanctions under Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Visit in 15 years

On the first visit to Iran in 15 years by an Indian premier, he is also to meet the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and invited Rouhani to India.

The volume of trade between the two countries over the past nine months reached $9 billion, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Iranian media say India is now seeking to double its imports of oil from Iran.

Tehran was New Delhi’s second largest supplier of oil until 2011-12, when economic sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program forced India to cut its dependence on Iranian oil.

India still owes Iran $6.5 billion that Tehran was unable to recover because of the international sanctions.

Iranian media said a first tranche of this debt, the equivalent of $750 million, has been paid into accounts held by Iran’s central bank in Turkey.

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