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India Looks to Operationalize Chabahar by 2019

India Looks to Operationalize Chabahar by 2019India Looks to Operationalize Chabahar by 2019

India is trying to make the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran operational by 2019, Indian Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has said in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Gadkari was on a two-day visit to Tajikistan to represent India at a global conference on "International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development".

"India is trying to make Chabahar Port in Iran operational by 2019 ... Opening up of the Chabahar Port would make the CIS countries more accessible," the shipping minister said in a statement as reported by Firstpost.

Chabahar Port located in Sistan-Baluchestan Province on the southeastern coast is of great strategic importance to India. It will provide India an alternative and reliable access route into Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. This would also give India access to resource-rich Central Asia.

Indian shipping ministry officials have been recently quoted as saying that notwithstanding the plans by the United States to impose fresh sanctions on Iran nuclear deal, India is all set to begin interim operations in the strategically important Chabahar Port project.

India has selected an Iranian company, Kaveh Port and Marine Services, for running the operations for 18 months until it selects a firm to manage and maintain the facility in the long run.

As per the memorandum of understanding signed between India and Iran in May 2016, India would equip and operate two terminals in Chabahar Port Phase-I with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.

“We have been able to enter Chabahar Port for interim operations, which will start from June 13,” said shipping secretary, Gopal Krishna, earlier this month.

The shipping ministry has also started the process of inviting fresh bids to select an Indian partner to manage, operate and maintain the port for the next 10 years, Hindustan Times reported.

Following complaints from the shortlisted companies over the bid norms, the shipping ministry referred the matter to an inter-ministerial panel. “The group of ministers last month decided to ease the bid conditions, including removing the clause to pay premium,” said an official of India Ports Global Private Limited who didn’t want to be named.

IPGPL is a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust set up to implement the project.

One of the officials said, “We were charging a premium from the successful bidder to meet our preliminary expenses. But the shortlisted bidders said that the project is of strategic importance and is not commercially viable.”

Iran’s only oceanic port, Chabahar, dubbed "international gateway" by Iranian officials, consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti.

President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port in the presence of some 70 visiting dignitaries from 17 countries in December.

The opening of the first phase (out of five phases defined for the project) has tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country) and will allow the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan.

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