|Indian government puts Iran's Chabahar port work on fast track||
India's Narendra Modi government has decided to get moving on the long-delayed construction of strategically critical Chabahar port in Iran that would give India easier access to Afghanistan and Central Asia through a shorter route that would also mean being able to avoid Karachi in neighbouring Pakistan.
The external affairs ministry has circulated a fresh Cabinet note on the project, a senior government official privy to the development told ET.
"The proposal is expected to be taken up shortly," the official said, requesting anonymity.
Modi has declared his keenness to deepen ties with neighbours and the port is expected to play an important role in the economic reconstruction and development of Afghanistan.
The project involves a capital expenditure of about Rs 550 crore. It will be implemented by a special purpose vehicle formed by Jawahar Lal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust along with a private player.
India and Iran had decided on the project in 2003, but the venture failed to make much headway because of U.S. sanctions on Iran, even though port construction was exempted from the sanctions.
Afghanistan is keen on India going ahead with the project as it could lead to a big boost to its trade.
While India can currently source goods from Afghanistan through Pakistan, trade in the opposite direction isn't allowed, leaving landlocked Afghanistan dependent on its neighbour to the east, with which it shares a lawless border region ridden with Islamist terrorist groups. Chabahar will not only provide India a shorter trade route to Afghanistan, it can also use this to import minerals from Central Asia.
The previous United Progressive Alliance government did try to push the project, particularly after China developed Gwadar port in Pakistan, 72 km from Chabahar, but failed to make much headway.
There have also been reports of China evincing interest in developing Chabahar, a development that has prompted India to try and get its act together on the much-delayed project.
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