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Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal departs on special flight for Iran, likely to sign crucial Chabahar port pact

New Delhi: Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday boarded a special Indian Air Force flight for Iran and is expected to witness signing of the crucial Chabahar port agremment between the two countries, reliable sources said.
The agreement will enable India to lease for a long-time Chabahar port situated on Iran's coast along the Gulf of Oman.
This strategic masterstroke will open up a new trade route between South Asia and Central Asia via Iran, bypassing Karachi as well as Gwadar ports in Pakistan.
It also opens up a new vista of economic opportunities for business communities to explore an alternative transit route from the sensitive and busy Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
The contract of Chabahar Port Operations will mark yet another major achievement of India's growing maritime reach in the region after the launching of Sittwe Port in Myanmar, both aimed at neutralising the growing Chinese presence in the region. Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurated the Sittwe port in Myanmar exactly a year ago - in May 2023.
Iran's Chabahar port is seen as a key component of India's connectivity initiatives, holding immense significance as it provides a viable and shorter route for trade between India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.
India aims to make Chabahar Port a transit hub under the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to reach out to CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. INSTC is India's vision to economise the movement of cargo between India and Central Asia, and the Chabahar Port would act as a commercial transit centre for the region.
INSTC is a multi-modal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and onward to northern Europe via St Petersburg in Russia.
The INSTC envisages the movement of goods from Mumbai to the Shahid Beheshti Port - Chabahar (Iran) by sea, from Chabahar to Bandar-e-Anzali (an Iranian port on the Caspian Sea) by road, and then from Bandar-e-Anzali to Astrakhan (a Caspian port in the Russian Federation) by ship across the Caspian Sea, and after that from Astrakhan to other regions of the Russian Federation and further into Europe by Russian railways.
Earlier this January, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Iran President Ebrahim Raisi discussed speeding up the implementation of Iran-India agreements, including the Chabahar Port Development Plan, and further compensating for delays.
During their meeting, Jaishankar expressed interest in concluding a comprehensive and long-term cooperation agreement with Iran, according to the Iranian President's official website.

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