India-Central Asia Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on Chabahar Port concludes

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The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Friday released a joint statement after the first meeting of the India-Central Asia Joint Working Gathering (JWG) on Chabahar Port situated in Southeastern Iran was concluded.

The 1st meeting of of India-Central Asia Joint Working Group on Chabahar Port was held in Mumbai on April 12-13, and was attended by Secretary (ER) Dammu Ravi along with the Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials of the central Asian countries namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

During the meeting the participants agreed on several key subjects including the role played by Chabahar port in sending aid to Afghanistan, the development of regional connectivity and initiating more connectivity projects to improve trade and economic cooperation.

Some of the points that the participants agreed upon are:

  • The countries valued the role played by Shahid Behesti Terminal, Chabahar Port in facilitating the shipments of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan public. They additionally acknowledged the shipment of 2.5 million tons of wheat and 2,000 tons of pulses to Afghanistan since the India Ports Worldwide Restricted (IPGL) took over in December 2018.
  • To enhance the trade and commerce between India and Central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India, the participants noted that further development of regional connectivity is essential.
  • The participants reaffirm that the initiatives taken to further the connectivity should conform to international norms, rule of law, respect for international commitments, and are based on mutually agreed principles of sustainable connectivity, transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
  • The participants emphasised that the connectivity projects deserve priority attention and could be a force multiplier for trade and economic cooperation and contacts between countries and people.
  • An active participation from the private sector is required to maintain the connectivity.  To work with large scale private investments in sustainable connectivity, the participants communicated their commitment to carry out important international standards, to guarantee a level playing field for organizations and to  guarantee reciprocal access to markets.
  • Moreover, the Indian side offered capacity-building programs to the officials and relevant stakeholders of participating countries in the field of port management and logistics.

According to the MEA’s release, during the meeting, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani proposed to hold the next round of JWG in Iran with the participation of the private sector, a proposal that was accepted by all participants. 

India in 2016, stuck a tripartite agreement with Iran and Afghanistan to develop the International Transport and Transit Corridor for connectivity and vowed to invest $85 million at the Shahid Behesti Terminal. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, the development project came to a halt and now Afghanistan is no longer in the picture. So far, India has spent around $25 million by providing equipment including six Mobile Harbour Cranes for the project.