India and Iran have signed nine pacts, the resultant of which will allow India to lease part of the strategic Chabahar port, near the mouth of the Gulf of Oman.
Addressing a news conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, ‘It is a matter of great pleasure for us that an Iranian President has traveled to India after a gap of 10 years. He further added that the Iranian president’s visit would strengthen the nations’ historical and friendly ties. The agreements came after substantive and productive talks between visiting President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A key focus of the discussions was infrastructure, particularly Iran’s Chabahar port. India has committed to invest $500 million in developing the port. During Modi’s 2016 visit to Iran, the countries signed a commercial contract envisaging development and operation of the port’s two terminals and five berths.
India badly wants the port developed, believing it will help India gain access to war-torn Afghanistan, where India is involved in rebuilding efforts. India also needs a route for its companies to take into energy-rich Central Asia. Pakistan, India’s hostile neighbor to the northwest, does not allow overland access.
Among the nine agreements signed lease between Iran’s Port and Maritime Organization and India Ports Global Limited. The deal allows the Indian company to take over and run a part of Chabahar port’s multi-purpose and container terminal for 18 months. Besides giving India access to Central Asia, the port will also help India counter China’s regional influence. China is currently developing Gwadar port, in Pakistan, which also gives China a way into Africa.