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India to develop Iran port despite US pressure

A ship is being loaded at Chabahar Port in southeast Iran.

In a bold defiance of the US warnings, India is poised to sign an agreement with Iran for the development of the strategic Chabahar Port in southeast Iran.

"[India’s Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin] Gadkari is scheduled to visit Iran on May 5. During his visit India and Iran may sign a memorandum of understanding for development of Chabahar Port," Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

Iran and India agreed in 2003 to develop Chabahar Port, which lies near Iran’s border with Pakistan. Last year, India's cabinet approved the development plan.

The announcement comes nearly a week after the US warned India and others against boosting ties with Iran ahead of a final nuclear deal expected between Tehran and six world powers.

However, Indian officials have said New Delhi should focus on its national interests.

“We don't want to miss this opportunity and will move as expeditiously as possible,” an Indian official said.

Chabahar Port would cut transport costs and freight time for India to Central Asia and the Persian Gulf by about a third.

The port would largely help India to get around Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan where it has developed close economic interests.

India has already spent about $100 million to build a 220-km (140-mile) road in western Afghanistan to link up with Chabahar Port.

Khalid Khan, regional head of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations, said Chabahar Port will help India export more to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Experts from Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the US, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and China – are currently in New York to try to work out a draft agreement over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. According to reports, the negotiations are planned to resume in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on May 12.

Iran and the P5+1 group of countries reached mutual understanding on the parameters of a comprehensive agreement over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.

Iran and the six-party group have agreed to finalize a comprehensive deal on the nuclear program by the end of June.

KA/KA


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