Long-term agreement with Iran over Chabahar Port to open new connections in central Asia: S. Jaishankar

Govt is pushing for trade settlement as much as possible in Indian rupee, he says

S. Jaishankar External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar

A long-term agreement with Iran to manage the Chabahar port will bring in more investments in the port and open up new trade connections to India in the region, S. Jaishankar, the Minister for External Affairs said on Monday. 

India is set to sign an agreement with Iran to manage the Chabahar port for the next ten years and shipping minister Sarbananda Sonowal is expected to travel to Iran later on Monday. The port will offer key connectivity for India with central Asian countries and the wider Eurasian region. 

"We believe as and when a long-term arrangement is concluded, it will clear the pathway for bigger investments to be made in the port. It will see more connectivity linkages coming out of that port. We believe connectivity is a big issue in that part. International north-south transport corridor we are doing with Iran, Russia andChabahar will connect us to that, also to central Asia," Jaishankar told reporters in an interaction at the National Stock Exchange (NSE)in Mumbai.

“Thus far, the port was being run on ad-hoc arrangements, not because of any problem on the Indian side, but the issue was around who the combination of partners would be in Iran, “he said. 

Jaishankar further said that the government was very serious about pushing a free trade agreement with the European Union. "Going into the next term, if all goes well with us, it will definitely be one of our important trade priorities," he said. 

Jaishankar said the government is pushing for trade settlement as much as possible in the Indian rupee. While he didn’t share the exact number of countries India has this understanding with, it is already in double digits, Jaishankar added. 

"There is today in many countries an acute shortage of foreign currency. They want to trade with us. They have the goods, they are willing to buy goods from us; currency has become an obstacle to implementing their trade design. So, we see today as a way of boosting our exports and contributing to the external economy, that we need to give countries more options and if we can do the settlements in each other's currency or our currency, we see that as something very sensible," he noted. 

He also stressed on the government's focus on Make in India. "We will not use environmental arguments to kill manufacturing, the way previous government used to do. We have confidence in the business people of India, in the workers of India, in the technologies of India," he said. 

He cited the example of defence sector, stating India had predominantly been a net importer. With ‘Make in India’, Indian industry had come up and many had shown they can compete with the best in the world, he added. "Today, I think in the current calendar year, already people are talking of deals done of Rs 25,000 crore, likely to go higher," said Jaishankar. 

Equity markets have turned very volatile over the last few sessions amid concerns if the Narendra Modi-led government will get a clear majority in the Lok Sabha elections. Jaishankar expressed confidence that the will return to power with a good mandate. 

"To me, it's very clear where this election is going. The exact number of people may have a debate. But, I am sure as round after round takes place, markets would be less and less volatile because the market will get a sense of where those numbers will end up and I am very confident those numbers will end up very good for us," said Jaishankar, echoing BJP's confidence of crossing 400 seats. 

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