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India, Afghanistan, Iran Meet to Fast-Track Chabahar Development

India, Afghanistan, Iran Meet to Fast-Track Chabahar DevelopmentIndia, Afghanistan, Iran Meet to Fast-Track Chabahar Development

Senior officials of Afghanistan, India and Iran on Tuesday met in Tehran to discuss the development of Chabahar Port, a sign that India is committed to the project despite the threat of looming US sanctions on the West Asian country.
The Indian delegation to the first meeting of the Coordination Council on Chabahar was led by T.S. Tirumurti, secretary for economic relations at India’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement, Livemint reported.
“Detailed discussions were held between the three sides on full operationalization of the trilateral agreement for international transit and transport through Chabahar Port. All sides shared the view that full operationalization of trilateral Chabahar initiative will promote connectivity and economic development of Afghanistan and the region,” the statement announced.
“It was decided to constitute a follow-up committee that would hold its first meeting within two months in Chabahar Port, Iran. It would discuss and aim to finalize a protocol to harmonize transit, roads, customs and consular matters that was shared by the Indian side at the meeting for making the route attractive, decrease logistic costs and pave the way for smooth implementation of the Trilateral Chabahar Agreement,” it added.
A person familiar with the development said India is committed to the project despite the threat of US sanctions on nations doing business with Iran, including buying oil or investing in the country.
The sanctions were announced after the US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that lifted most of the embargoes on Iran imposed over its nuclear program. India’s investment in Chabahar was discussed when the US interlocutor on Iran, Brian Hook, visited New Delhi earlier this month.
It was in 2003 that India first proposed developing the Chabahar Port seen as a gateway for the country to access the landlocked markets of Afghanistan and Central Asia, as New Delhi’s tense ties with Pakistan blocked overland trade through Pakistan.
Chabahar is located less than 100 nautical miles from the Chinese built port of Gwadar in Pakistan. In February, India and Iran signed a pact to lease to New Delhi the contract for operation of Shahid Beheshti Port or Phase-I of Chabahar. 
Under the terms of the pact, India Ports Global Ltd, an Indian company, is to take over the interim operations of Chabahar Port and operate the terminal for 18 months.
New Delhi is awaiting Iran's handover of the Shahid Beheshti port for operation by India.
The next meeting of the Coordination Council will be held in the first half of 2019 in India.

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