India, Iran and Uzbekistan on Monday discussed the joint use of Chabahar port to enhance regional connectivity as the three countries held their first trilateral meeting focused on the strategic trade and transit facility in the Gulf of Oman.
The first virtual meeting of the trilateral working group was a follow-up to a suggestion by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday that the three countries should jointly promote Chabahar port.
“During the meeting, the participants discussed joint use of Chabahar port for trade and transit purposes and enhanced regional connectivity. All sides also noted the significant role played by Chabahar port for the region to deliver humanitarian assistance during the Covid pandemic,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
The statement didn’t give further details on whether the three sides had proposed any measures regarding the joint use of the port.
The meeting was jointly chaired by India’s secretary (shipping) Sanjeev Ranjan, Uzbekistan’s deputy transport minister D Dehkanov and Iran’s deputy transport minister Shahram Adamnejad.
All the countries welcomed India’s proposal to hold a “Chabahar Day” on the margins of the International Maritime Summit to be hosted by New Delhi in January next year.
India currently operates one of the terminals of Chabahar port that it has developed. The strategic project has been given a waiver from sanctions imposed by the US on Iran in view of its importance in shipping cargo and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
The prospects of Chabahar took a hit after US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign. However, president-elect Joe Biden has said he will offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy” since dealing with Tehran’s nuclear programme is the best way to achieve stability in the region.
These developments had resulted in renewed interest in Chabahar, and the external affairs ministry said last week it welcomes Uzbekistan’s interest in using the port as a transit facility.
“This would open up economic opportunities for the traders and business community of the region. Besides Uzbekistan, other Central Asian countries have also shown interest in using the port. India seeks to cooperate closely with regional countries on this issue,” the ministry added.