1241 GMT June 15, 2021
Speaking at a webinar on Monday, Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni anticipated that it was only a matter of time before sanctions against Iran were lifted, following an early revival of an updated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), IANS reported on Tuesday.
With oil and gas as a major spur of the India-Iran relations, Chegeni proposed that Iran had earmarked and opened Jask Port – a port on the mouth of the strategically crucial Strait of Hormuz – for major Indian and Chinese energy investments.
He said that India could build its strategic oil reserves at this port.
“Having a huge oil storage capacity, with just a short direct sea route from India, means that it is time to realize the construction of the Iran-India oil and gas pipeline. India can also use the Jask Port facilities to store its strategic crude oil reserves to meet emergency needs in case of disruptions in supply,” he observed.
Chegeni said that several countries were in the queue to join a budding quadrilateral arrangement among India, Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to use the Iranian port of Chabahar in the Indian Ocean to route their trade.
Chabahar port, and a corridor that extends towards Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, is expected to emerge as key gateway to channel trade between Eurasia, including landlocked Central Asia, and the rest of the world.
The Iranian ambassador also said that India can invest up to $20 billion in a sprawling free trade zone that was coming up next to Chabahar port.
He said, “There is a possibility to revive India’s plan to invest $20 billion in Chabahar Economic Free Zone for setting up petrochemical and fertilizer plants, either independently or through joint ventures, with Iranian public-private companies.”
He added that Iran had already allocated land in the zone and is willing to offer favorable treatment in the pricing of gas for India and also the supply of rich gas at a competitive price and on a long-term basis for the entire life cycle of the joint venture projects.
The Iranian ambassador’s assertions on Chabahar dovetailed with another proposal – of linking the Chabahar route with the older International North-South Transport Corridor initiative.
The Chabahar route begins at Mumbai, though Gujarat’s Mundra port is now acquiring greater resonance. From India’s west coast, the corridor heads to Chabahar, from where the route heads towards Afghanistan via Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province along a recent India-built road.
Over time, a railway is also envisaged, which will link Chabahar with the Hajigak iron ore mines in Afghanistan, where India has made major investments.
Essentially, the new INSTC is a combination of two corridors. It then heads to Bandar Abbas, a southern Iranian port in the Persian Gulf. From there it takes the overland route to Bandar Anzali, which is located on the Caspian Sea coast in the north.
Containers are off-loaded here and shipped along the Caspian to its Russian shore at Astrakhan, which becomes the base of further transportation into Eurasia. Over time, other countries are being networked in this rapidly mutating corridor including Azerbaijan and Armenia, in tune with the rise of Eurasia in the 21st century.