India has reaffirmed its commitment to Iran’s Chabahar Port as it delivered heavy equipment, including cranes, for the strategic connectivity project. It has supplied two 140-ton mobile harbor cranes via an Italian company called Italgru.

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The deal was signed for a total of six cranes, people familiar with developments told Hindustan Times. In 2020, a contract with a Chinese state-run firm for similar equipment was canceled amid the border standoff, resulting in the delay of equipment delivery.

Citing delays in supplying the equipment ordered in 2017, India had canceled a $30-million contract with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries for heavy cranes in September 2020.

The latest delivery has been confirmed by Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, Director General of West Asia at Iran’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Behrouz Aghaei, director-general of the ports and maritime department of Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, told Tehran Times: “The first shipment of…equipment worth $8.5 million has arrived in Chabahar port to mark the activation of the contract between the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) and the Indian side.”

Aghaei said the heavy equipment will be installed at Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port, which is operated by India. India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) had taken over the port operations in December 2018. So far, the port has handled 1.75 million tons of bulk cargo and more than 13,000 TEUs of container cargo, the reports said.

The fast-paced work on the port also comes in the backdrop of Donald Trump making way for President-elect Joe Biden to take charge of the US government. It is believed that Biden would end sanctions against Iran with the resumption of nuclear talks.

Iranian Ports and Maritime Organization Head Mohammad Rastad had stated that the grain suckers, gate cranes as well as gantry cranes of Shahid Beheshti port were installed last year, and only the equipment related to the commitment of the Indian operator were remained to be imported and installed in this port. India is the only foreign country that is currently participating in a major development project in Iran despite the U.S. sanctions – TehranTimes reported.

The Chabahar Port is a key connectivity project for Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries. In December 2020, there was a renewed interest in the development of the port as India, Iran, and Uzbekistan held a trilateral meeting on the joint use of the port for trade and transit purposes and for enhanced regional connectivity.

Iranian officials had highlighted India’s experience at the port and invited other countries to use the facilities provided at Chabahar port. Iran had also “announced a 50% discount on the transit of goods and a 25-year tax exemption and free transfer of currency abroad as part of the benefits of investing in the port”.

In spite of the US sanctions, India was exempted from investing in the port. India has not only invested in the development of the port but was also allowed to ship goods to Afghanistan through Chabahar.

Meanwhile, shipping goods to Central Asia was not allowed. Experts believe the US allowed the development of Chabahar by India as it could play a role in the economic development of war-torn Afghanistan.

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