The inking of the commercial contract to build and run the strategic port will help India win access to Afghanistan, Russia and Europe bypassing Pakistan
From Ammar Zaidi
A "milestone" pact on the strategic Chabahar port in southern Iran which will give India access to Afghanistan and Europe bypassing Pakistan was among the agreements signed in Tehran on Monday by India and Iran which also agreed to cooperate on combating radicalism and terror.
Besides the bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port for which India will invest $500 million, a trilateral Agreement on Transport and Transit Corridor was also signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi said could "alter the course of the history of the region".
The bilateral agreements signed by India and Iran after detailed discussions between Modi and President Hassan Rouhani included one on setting up of an aluminium plant and another on laying a railway line to give India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The agreements, aimed at further deepening India-Iran ties in diverse fields, covered areas of economy, trade, transportation, port development, culture, science and academic cooperation.
Modi's visit, the first by an Indian prime minister in 15 years, comes months after the lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran's historic nuclear deal with the Western powers over its contentious atomic programme.
Earlier, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited the country in April 2001.
The key agreement signed was a contract for development of Phase I of the Chabahar port on the southern coast of Iran by an Indian joint venture.
Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Balochistan Province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nation's southern coast, lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India's western coast, bypassing Pakistan.
"The bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port and related infrastructure and availability of about $500 million from India for this purpose, is an important milestone," Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Iran in 15 years, said while addressing the media jointly with Rouhani.
"This major effort would boost economic growth in the region. We are committed to take steps for early implementation of the agreements signed today," he said.
The trilateral agreement on Transport and Transit Corridor, linked to the Chabahar port development, was signed later by India, Iran and Afghanistan in the presence of Modi, Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.