New Delhi — India's ambition to bypass Pakistan to enter resource-rich Central Asia & Afghanistan hangs in balance as Iran is yet to send the complete application form for sourcing $150 million loans from India's EXIM bank.
The initial agreement for the loan was signed in May last year and since then, EXIM bank has been sending repeated reminders but Iran is yet to respond. The completed application form is a pre-condition for disbursement of the loan.India's Minister for Shipping & Port Development Nitin Gadkari, who had visited Tehran last month to break the deadlock over the loan agreement. However, he is still waiting for Iran to send it the completed application form to the EXIM Bank of India for providing the first tranche of the loan from the $150 million credit line.
However, on Wednesday, the India Minister dismissed reports of delay in the Chabahar port project and assured that all the bottlenecks for the project have been removed and work for the project would be fast-tracked. He termed the project as "win-win" for India, Iran and Afghanistan as it would serve as a "growth engine" for the entire region.
"We understand the sanctity of the project. I want to dispel the view that commitment of either Iran or India to the project is in any doubt," Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday evening at a press meet in New Delhi.
India Ports Global Pvt. Ltd and Iran's Arya Banader had signed a 10-year commercial contract for the development and operations of Chabahar port on 23 May 2016 in Tehran during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The agreement allows India to equip and operate certain terminals of the port for 10 years.
The terms of the agreement make it mandatory for India to make $150 million credit available for the development of phase one of Chabahar port within four months of receiving an application for the same from Iran.Besides the bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port, a trilateral agreement on establishing a transport and transit corridor has also been signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran.
Iran's delay in furthering the project is being seen by some as a tactic to pressurize India not to collaborate with the US on the Afghan peace process, given the strained US-Iran relations after the imposition of US sanctions on the West Asian country over its missile program.
"When Trump was speaking about strategy in Afghanistan and encouraging India to do more, hopefully, he knew the geography that India has no direct land connection with Afghan and Chabahar will provide the only sea route access," Ghulam Reza Ansari, Iranian envoy to India said. - Sputnik