India slow to develop Iran port as China sprints ahead at ri

Time: 2016-10-11 13:43
THIRTEEN years after leaders of India, Iran and Afghanistan met in Teheran to have India develop Iran's Port of Chabahar, the harbour stands neglected as the Chinese raced ahead to build Pakistan's Port of Gwadar, 100 kilometres (62 miles) away across the border.
India pledged to inject US$500 million and Chabahar was to rival Gwadar Iran would get a big seaport away from the tense and vulnerable Strait of Hormuz - and kick-start growth in its poor eastern region, as well as Afghanistan with road and rail links to the sea.
But more than a decade on, the strategic asset is languishing, even as China sinks $45 billion into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor that winds down to Gwadar.
"What you're seeing is the problem with many of the Indian commitments abroad," said Sameer Patil, an analyst at Gateway House, a research organization in Mumbai. "Once a prime minister makes that commitment, the parties find it difficult to move the process forward. The Indian bureaucracy takes its sweet time," Bloomberg reported.
"They should've given the contract to the Chinese," said Zheng Ke, a 37-year-old businessman from China, speaking in Persian at his supermarket in Chabahar's free trade zone. "They'd get the port done in no time."
Despite the project's importance, Indians and Iranians haggled for two years over who would pay $30 million of excise duties on port equipment imported into Iran, according to Iranian diplomat Hamid Mosadeghi.
"The slowness comes from these small things," said Mr Mosadeghi, who heads the economic section at Iran's embassy in New Delhi. "Both sides want to expedite this."
Chabahar could be a linchpin for the region's economy. It's close to the western Indian ports of Kandla, Mundra and Mumbai and could help India's farmers get cheaper access to fertilizers and other commodities from central Asia and beyond.
"We are dependent substantially on urea, ammonia and fertilizers, and given Chabahar's geographic proximity, the transport costs are negligible," India's ambassador to Iran, Saurabh Kumar, said in an interview in Tehran.
Chabahar is also crucial for land-locked Afghanistan. The deal includes a north-south railroad that could help the country exploit an estimated $1 trillion of untapped mineral wealth and reduce its reliance on aid.
India will invest $85 million in equipment and lend $150 million for the first phase, which includes two terminals and five jetties, according to Mr Kumar. Transport ministers from Iran, India and Afghanistan met last week in New Delhi to assess progress.
Contact:  Aster Chen
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