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India, Iran and Afghanistan come together for international transit corridor

Times of India:  September, 2015

New Delhi: India is looking to step up the pedal over its ambitious Chabahar port project in Iran by signing an international transit corridor agreement with Iran and Afghanistan.  

One of the reasons why the port project is important for India as it will facilitate access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Over the past 2 days, officials from the 3 countries have met to finalize agreement for a Chabahar transit corridor.

"We are looking at a trilateral transit corridor MoU," India's ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha told TOI. 

While India and Iran are developing the Chabahar port jointly, Sinha said, Afghan businesses are investing in the attached free trade zone where Iran has allotted land for Afghan investors. 

For India, Chabahar port is an important initiative involving three partners, and is a critical alternate trade route for Afghanistan. What came as a shot in the arm for India was that the port was welcomed by all regional partners of Afghanistan at the VI RECCA (Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan) conference held in Kabul on September 4. 

The transit corridor will be significant for Afghanistan too with President Ashraf Ghani declaring that his country wants to revitalize the Silk Road and act as a regional hub for connecting South Asia with Central Asia. 

Indian officials said though that the primary motivation for the port and transit corridor was not bypassing Pakistan. We are actually hoping that Pakistan too at some stage will join all trade and transit agreements being negotiated under Saarc by all other member nations?," said an Indian official.

After the latest round of talks for the corridor, Azer News quoted Iran officials as saying that along with other international corridors -- the North-South ITC, the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran road corridor, and the so-called Ashgabat agreement on international transportation signed by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Oman -- the construction of the Iran-India-Afghanistan international transit corridor will not only promote the development of regional trade, but also will be an important historical event. 

India and Iran have already signed an MoU for the Chabahar port and it is likely to become operational by the end of next year. 

The talks for trilateral transit corridor had started in 2013. Afghanistan is looking at the Chabahar port and the trilateral transit corridor to reduce its dependence on pakistan. 

India and Iran want to increase the Chabahar port capacity from the current 2.5 million tonnes per year to 12.5 million tonnes per year.