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Opinion

Months after canceling agreement with China, India acquires heavy cranes for the port of Chabahar

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India’s operations at Iran’s strategic Chabahar port will get a boost with the delivery of four heavy cranes in January, months after a deal with a Chinese state-owned company for the equipment was canceled amid the border clash.

In September, India canceled a contract with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries worth nearly $ 30 million for four rail-mounted quay cranes needed to move heavy cargo, citing delays by the Chinese company in supplying the equipment ordered in 2017.

Following a new tender for 65-ton capacity cranes, the equipment was purchased from a western company and is now expected to arrive in Chabahar next month, people familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity. They declined to elaborate in light of sensitivities related to the US sanctions on Iran, although the port of Chabahar received an exemption.

The people further said that the Iranian side had made a request to the Indian government for railway equipment, including locomotives, signaling equipment and equipment for railway stations, to reinforce operations on the Chabahar-Zahedan and Khaf-Herat railway lines.

The Iranian side has suggested that India can provide this equipment with a $ 150 line of credit that was proposed a few years ago, the people said.

These developments follow the opening on December 10 of a major section of the 220 km Khaf-Herat rail link, which will eventually connect Khaf in Iran and Roznak in the Afghan province of Herat, and a decision by Tehran in November complete the 628 km Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, which runs from the port to near the Afghan border, with own funds rather than waiting for the participation of Indian Railway Construction Limited (IRCON).

“Iran has decided to complete all the infrastructure on its side and India is welcome to join all the projects. For example, they can supply the railway equipment and develop other facilities such as refineries and petrochemical industries in the Chabahar free trade zone, ”said one of the people quoted above, adding that the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link is expected to be completed by July. from 2021.

The Foreign Ministry recently said that IRCON had completed a feasibility study and was awaiting a decision from the Iranian side to appoint a nodal authority. However, it is believed that there were doubts on the part of private companies to negotiate with a company linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Committee (IRGC), which has been sanctioned by the United States.

Amid reports that some neighborhoods are calling for the Khaf-Herat rail link to extend south to the border with Pakistan, people noted that there is interest in taking the line north to Uzbekistan and suggested that India could play a key role in such an undertaking.

India, Iran and Uzbekistan held their first trilateral meeting focused on the Chabahar port on December 14 and people said this body is now expected to meet every three months to push the joint use of the strategic trade and transit facility in the Gulf of Oman to improve regional connectivity.

“Given its extensive presence in Afghanistan, India can help to develop the Khaf-Herat railway route and extend it to Uzbekistan. Despite the sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Khaf-Herat line has been opened and will help boost landlocked Afghanistan, “the person quoted above said.

In May 2016, India Ports Global and Aria Banader Iranian Port and Marine Services Company of Iran signed an agreement to equip and operate the Shahid Beheshti terminal in the port of Chabahar, with a capital investment of $ 85.21 million and an expense annual revenue of $ 22.95 million, on a 10 year lease.

Hindustan Times

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