Iran seeks to allay India's fears over being dropped from Chabahar project

There were reports that India was dropped from the project over funding delays

Chabahar-Port-boats Boats anchored at Chabahar Bay | via Commons

Iran has chosen to signal balance. Iran "has a longstanding policy of maintaining balanced, friendly relations '' with all the power of Eurasia and South Asian powers, which it will "uphold", according to a tweet by the spokesperson of foreign ministry of Iran.

“Our potential longterm cooperation agreements w/ China & Russia & our continued joint work w/ India in Chabahar prove this. We are determined to uphold this policy,’’ tweeted foreign ministry spokesperson S.A. Mousavi.

The tweet, which aims to highlight that Iran is not cosying up to China, also puts to rest India's apprehensions about the Chabahar project. The tweet comes in the wake of reports that Iran had chosen to leave India out of the railway project to build rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan, because of “funding delays”. This is the first official tweet Iran has chosen to put out to address the growing speculation that all is not well with the Chabahar project.

Ironically, this year, India had allocated Rs 100 crore for the project, double of what it had committed last year. The amount was to signal India's seriousness and intent, especially as it had not been able to spend Rs. 45 crore allotted in the previous year.

While tensions between the two countries have existed—especially after India chose to cut down oil imports with Iran to zero following American pressure—excluding India from the railway line of the project at a time when Iran is inking a deal with China for a 25-year partnership for $400 billion to build infrastructure and energy resources in Iran, is certainly a concern for South Block.

Earlier this week, the Indian embassy tried to douse the fire. “Amb Gaddam Dharmendra was today invited by H.E Saeed Rasouli Dy Minister Roads & Head of Iran Railways to review on-going co-op on Chabahar-Zahedan railway. H.E Rasouli stated that vested interests were behind recent reports that Iran excluded India from Chabahar-Zahedan railway,’’ a tweet from the official Twitter account of the Indian embassy in Iran read. The MEA too had dismissed the reports as speculative.

Diplomacy between the two countries was stepped up following the controversy, even if it was at the ambassadorial level, as Gaddam also paid a courtesy call to Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, speaker of Iran’s parliament, to convey Speaker of Lok Sabha Om Birla’s greetings.

Rasouli’s comment contradicted Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO)'s deputy head for Ports and Economic Affairs Farhad Montaser Kouhsari's statement that Iran had no agreement with India on the building of the railway line. "Iran has only signed two agreements with Indians for investment in Chabahar: one is related to port's machinery and equipment, and the second is related to India's investment to the tune of $150m," Kouhsari was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.