Baku, Azerbaijan, May 23
By Emil Ilgar - Trend:
Iran, Afghanistan, and India signed a trilateral deal in Tehran on Monday to turn the Iranian southeastern port of Chabahar into a regional transit hub.
The deal was signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Chabahar can be a connecting point between different countries, such as India with Afghanistan, Central Asia, Caucasus, and Eastern Europe, said President Rouhani on the sidelines of the signing ceremony, IRNA reported.
During his meeting with the Afghan president, Rouhani said: "The document that is going to be signed today by Iran, India and Afghanistan, will be the ground for development of all three countries, as well as the region," president.ir reported.
During the same meeting, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani said: "Kabul seeks regional cooperation with Iran, in bilateral and multilateral context".
He added: "Today a significant step in the relations and bilateral and regional cooperation among the three countries will be taken and this transit line will significantly affect regional cooperation".
Prior to that, India signed 12 agreements with Iran, aiming to invest billions of dollars in setting up industries - ranging from aluminum smelter to urea plants - in Iran's Chabahar free trade zone.
The Ports and Maritime Organization of Iran and the India Ports Global Pvt signed an agreement on the development of Chabahar port.
Meanwhile, the Finance and Economic Affairs Ministry of Iran and the Exim Bank of India; the Indian National Aluminum Company (Nalco) and the Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization (IMIDRO); and the Indian Railway PSU IRCON and the Iranian Construction and Development of Transportation Infrastructures Company signed agreements.
It was also expected that Modi's visit to Tehran may see finalizing of a contract, giving developmental rights of Iran's Farzad-B gas field to India's ONGC Videsh Ltd. But no agreement has been reached so far.
The Farzad-B field was discovered in 2008 but no contract to exploit the 12.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves has so far been concluded with Iran.
India has begun paying back $6 billion in debt from past oil purchases, last week giving Iran $750 million. It has said it will pay back the remainder of the debt.
In 2012, Iran was India's second-largest crude supplier but oil exports subsequently fell due to international sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.