Iran to continue cooperation with India on Chabahar line, says Railway Chief

Iran to continue cooperation with India on Chabahar line, says Railway Chief

In the latest twist to Iran’s Chabahar-Zahedan railway project, Iran’s Railway Minister said Iran and India are “determined to continue” cooperation on the railway line. The remarks contradict Iranian officials who had previously said India was not a part of the project.

The Hindu Explains | Why is India out of the Chabahar rail project?

“Considering the history of cooperation between the two countries and the existing potentials and capacities, Iran and India are determined to continue their cooperation in the field of rail transport, especially the Zahedan-Chabahar railway, because the development of cooperation between the two countries in this area,” said the Iranian Railways head Saeed Rasouli, after a meeting with Indian Ambassador to Iran Gaddam Dharmendra on Monday, in a statement reported by the official agency, Railnews.

As The Hindu had reported last week, Iranian railways had, on July 7, inaugurated the track laying operations for the 628 km line from Chabahar port to Zahedan on the border with Afghanistan, without Indian railway construction company IRCON’s participation.

Outstanding issues

When asked why India had not been a part of the inauguration, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson had said last Thursday that India had not heard back from Iran on a request to “finalise outstanding technical and financial issues” since December 2019.

It is unclear whether Monday’s meeting means there has been some progress in the issues pending since last December, and whether India will now sign an agreement with the Iranian government to take the project forward. The MEA and Iranian Embassy in Delhi declined to make any further comments to the new development.

Meanwhile, another Iranian official also said last week that India was not a part of the inauguration as it had not signed the Chabahar-Zahedan rail agreement, despite a previous 2016 MoU between Iranian railway infrastructure company CDTIC and Indian railway construction company IRCON.

“Iran has only signed two agreements with Indians for investment in Chabahar: one is related to port’s machinery and equipment, and the second is related to India’s investment to the tune of $150m,” Farhad Montaser, deputy on Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization told IRNA news agency last Wednesday. “We had a list of Indian investments in Chabahar port, which also included the issue of Chabahar railway infrastructure and the railway, but during the negotiations it was not agreed,” Mr. Montaser.

When asked about the decision to go ahead alone, Iranian diplomatic officials had cited Indian delays and the impact of U.S. sanctions.

The officials had said the Chabahar Zahedan rail line is “currently under construction by Iranian funding and engineering capacities” given the “absence of India’s active engagement and partnership”, and had said that India was welcome to join at a “later date”.

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