NEW DELHI, India – India and Uzbekistan bid to leverage Chabahar port for regional trade and transit, according to sources, agreeing to exploit the full potential of the oceanic facilities.

The decision was made during the 15th round of India-Uzbekistan Foreign Office Consultation (FoC) on Wednesday, where both sides agreed to maximize efforts on the port as a commercial transit hub for the region.   

Chabahar is a more commercial and stable route for landlocked countries of the region to reach India and the global market, making the port India’s much-need gateway to landlocked Afghanistan, including other northern countries.

“The talks particularly focused on greater economic cooperation and steps to enhance connectivity between India and Uzbekistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said after the India-Uzbekistan FOC, as The Print quoted. “Both sides agreed to exploit the full potential of Chabahar port for trade between the two countries.”

During the consultations, both sides undertook a comprehensive review of the state and prospects of bilateral cooperation including political, security, trade-economic, connectivity, development partnership, humanitarian and cultural spheres, according to the report.

Uzbekistan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Furkat Sidikov on Tuesday said that his country can be a gateway for Indian businessmen to get access to the Eurasian market.

“You know that now traditional supply chains are not working well. So in this case, I see that Uzbekistan can be a getaway for Indian businessmen to get access to Eurasian markets. India is one of the biggest investors in Uzbekistan,” Sidikov said, as The Printed quoted.

He further added there is one issue of logistics and now they will work with the government of India and would like to use Chabahar.

The Chabahar Port

Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman. It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of which has five berths. 

India and Iran first agreed to plans to further develop Shahid Beheshti port in 2003, but did not do so on account of sanctions against Iran.  

The bilateral agreement gives India the right to develop two berths of the Chabahar port as agreed in 2015 and allows them to be operated for 10 years by India Ports Global, a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust, in partnership with Iran’s Aria Banader.

In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600-meter-long container handling facility at the port. The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.

In October 2017, India’s first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan was sent through the Chabahar Port. In December 2018, India took over the port’s operations.