Gopal Krishna, secretary of India’s Ministry of Shipping, spoke as Iran on Monday celebrated Chabahar Day marking the port’s growing role in promoting connectivity in the region.
“We need to move away from the sanctions that have been imposed recently on Iran and bypass them,” a Farsi version of his remarks quoted by Tasnim news agency said, Presstv Reported.
“This is an obligation that requires us to invest in Chabahar as one of the parties to the Chabahar memorandum of understanding and upgrade the port’s terminals,” he added.
The Iranian port provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped develop the route in order to embolden its connectivity footprints in CIS countries - a regional organization of 10 post-Soviet republics in Eurasia.
Afghanistan begins exports to India
After decades of war, Afghanistan turns to overseas markets to improve its economy. On Sunday, it began exports to India through Chabahar as 23 trucks carrying 57 tonnes of dried fruits, textiles, carpets and mineral products headed to the Iranian port from western Afghan city of Zaranj.
The consignment will be shipped to the Indian city of Mumbai, with President Ashraf Ghani telling the inauguration of the new export route that Afghanistan was slowly improving its exports in a bid to reduce its trade deficit.
"Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth," he said.
For landlocked Afghanistan, the route means opening the way for billions of dollars in trade and cutting the country’s dependence on foreigners for aid as well as stemming the illicit opium trade.
India has already sent 1.1 million tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of lentils to Afghanistan through Chabahar.
The Iranian port on the coast of the Gulf of Oman is easily accessible from India's west coast. It is a key link in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a multi-modal network of ship, rail and road routes to move freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
India took over the operations of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar in December 2018. Commercial operations began the same month with the arrival of a Cyprus-registered bulk carrier with 72,458 tonnes of corn cargo.
Last year the US government granted an exception to certain US sanctions that allowed India to continue its participation in Chabahar’s development.
The US is basically opposed to the project, not just because of its entrenched hostility to Iran, but also its plans for a long-haul military stay in Afghanistan and its efforts to keep India and Russia as apart as possible.
US President Donald Trump has expressed an interest in Afghanistan’s massive mineral resources which India has already won the rights to exploit, including an iron mine. New Delhi seeks to use a planned railroad to Chabahar to export iron ore from the Hajigak iron mine in central Afghanistan.
According to analysts, the real reason Trump is giving the waivers is because he is unable to force countries such as India and China, which are major clients of Iranian oil, to stop trade with the country.
They say Trump’s refusal to provide waivers would raise the prospect of the US sanctioning Chinese and Indian companies and getting embroiled in yet another trade dispute.
Indian raw sugar exports to Iran
Trade sources told Reuters on Tuesday that Indian traders will export raw sugar to Iran for March and April delivery, New Delhi's first sugar sales to Tehran in at least five years.
Blocked from the US-dominated financial system, Iran is buying the sugar from India to use up the rupees it has received for oil sales to India.
The news agency said trading houses have contracted to export 150,000 tonnes of raw sugar for shipments arriving in March and April at $305 to $310 per tonne on a free-on-board basis.