Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 14
The first Trilateral Working Group Meeting between India, Iran and Uzbekistan on the joint use of Chabahar Port was held virtually on Monday.
The trilateral marked a quick move in diplomacy. It was held three days after the proposal was mooted by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev during a virtual summit with PM Narendra Modi on December 11.
Uzbekistan’s interest in using Chabahar Port marks a flexing point in India’s efforts to carve out a communication route to Afghanistan and Central Asia that outflanks Pakistan.
Iran and Uzbekistan welcomed India’s proposal to hold “Chabahar Day” on the sidelines of the International Maritime Summit scheduled to be hosted by India next month, read an MEA statement.
In an effort to drain out any political meaning from use of Chabahar Port for trade and transit purposes and enhanced regional connectivity, the trilateral was co-chaired by secretary-level officers from the respective Transport or Shipping Ministries.
The Indian side was led by Shipping Secretary Sanjeev Ranjan while Uzbek Deputy Minister of Transport D Dehkanov and Iranian Deputy Transport Minister Shahram Adamnejad led their respective delegations.
The trilateral noted the significant role played by Chabahar Port for the region to deliver humanitarian assistance during the Covid pandemic. This included 50,000 tons of foodgrain via the shortest route to western Pashtun, Hazara and Uzbek dominated areas of Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan is Central Asia’s most populous nation and has ample reserves of uranium, gold, coal and oil. Some of them could be exported from Chabahar or value added at an adjacent upcoming special economic zone to ports along the Indian Ocean.
The subsequent rounds of trilaterals may see Tashkent considering greater involvement in a transportation link to the warm water port of Chabahar. A domino effect is expected and more Central Asian states could join in, said sources.
In Afghanistan, India has constructed a road from Zaranj, near the Iranian border, to Delaram which feeds into the Garland Highway connecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Kunduz. This has enabled Indian non-perishable goods to reach Afghanistan by-passing Pakistan which has denied India direct access.