Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is in India on an official visit, is expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss bilateral issues and the ongoing development of Chabahar port.
According to The Times of India, Rouhani and Modi will discuss a range of issues including trade, crude oil and connectivity – particularly with the new port.
Rouhani, who is on a three-day visit to India, will also discuss the issue of oil with Indian officials. India is the second-biggest importer of Iranian crude oil.
On Friday, Rouhani said "Iran is rich in oil and natural gas resources. It is ready to share its natural resources with India for its development and progress."
The strategically important port of Chabahar meanwhile will be a key item on their agenda.
Under an agreement, India will invest $85 million USD for equipping Chabahar port in south-east Iran. Rouhani on Friday stressed the importance of the deep-water port and said it will open up a transit route for India to Iran, Afghanistan (bypassing Pakistan), Central Asian countries and also Europe.
The port will in turn offer an alternate to Karachi port in Pakistan for Afghanistan – which will be able to export products not only to central Asia but to the US, Europe and Africa, Afghan officials said.
IRNA quoted the Afghan Director General of transit and trade facilitation for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry as saying this week that Kabul has decided to export its products through Chabahar Port.
Sayed Yahya Akhlaqi said on the sidelines of the 9th meeting of the Road Committee of Transit Transport Coordination Council (TTCC) of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) in Islamabad this week that Chabahar Port has good facilities and provides cheaper and easy transit for land-locked Afghanistan.
“This port gives us the access not only to Indian market but Arabian countries also,” the official added.
“We have decided that from the next Iranian year (March 21) Afghanistan will start exporting fresh and dry fruits to other countries through Chabahar Port,” added Akhlaqi.
He said that initially Afghanistan will send its products from Nimruz Province to Chabahar Port and will also solve problems if occurred in the transit trade route.
He told IRNA that Afghanistan has decreased its exports from Karachi-Torkham and Karachi-Chaman routes of Pakistan due to ongoing problems.
But Akhlaqi was hopeful that with the increase in the capacity of Chabahar Port, new avenues of cooperation will open among the regional states.
Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, in December last year.
India is central to this port project as it remains keen on opening a trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, as part of an agreement signed between India and Iran in May 2016.
According to Indian media reports, India will equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with a capital investment of $85 million USD and an annual revenue expenditure of $23 million on a 10-year lease.
This will establish a Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries – India, Iran and Afghanistan - using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran.
The port is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018, with New Delhi committed to developing a free trade area around the port, and finally completing the loop with a $1.6 billion USD railway line to Zahedan.
In October, India sent its first shipment of 15,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar; the shipment arrived in Zaranj on November 11.