India, Iran and Uzbekistan to hold first trilateral meeting on the use of the Chabahar port
India, Iran and Uzbekistan will hold their first trilateral meeting on joint use of the strategic port of Chabahar next week in the context of reports that the incoming Joe Biden administration in the United States will re-engage Tehran in the nuclear issue.
The first meeting of the trilateral working group will be held virtually on December 14 and will be jointly chaired by the vice ministers of Iran and Uzbekistan and a secretary from India, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.
The announcement came a day after Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed during a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a trilateral meeting with Iran should be held to promote the port of Chabahar.
India currently operates one of the Chabahar port terminals that it has developed. The strategic project has received an exemption from sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran in view of its importance in shipping cargo and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
“India welcomes Uzbekistan’s interest in using the port of Chabahar as a transit port,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“This would open up economic opportunities for merchants and the business community in the region. Apart from Uzbekistan, other Central Asian countries have also shown interest in using the port. India seeks to cooperate closely with the countries of the region on this issue, “the statement added.
US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign. However, President-elect Joe Biden has said he will offer Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy,” as dealing with Tehran’s nuclear program is the best way to achieve stability in the region.
The United States, in consultation with allies and partners, will engage in “follow-up negotiations and agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear limitations,” Biden told The New York Times in an interview this month.
Biden also said that he will insist that Iran accept new demands if it wants the United States to return to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions.
These events have led to renewed interest in the port of Chabahar, people familiar with the events said on condition of anonymity.
Following the India-Uzbekistan Summit on Friday, Adarsh Swaika, Deputy Secretary (Eurasia) at the Foreign Ministry, said the two sides had discussed how to overcome the lack of land connectivity. Mirziyoyev gave his consent in principle to join the North-South International Transport Corridor (INSTC), when Modi reiterated a proposal regarding Uzbekistan’s participation in the project.
“We, as a principle, would welcome any initiative that increases connectivity between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan or with other Central Asian countries,” Swaika said.