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Iranian President backs PM Modi’s call — urges officials to quickly develop Mumbai-Saint Petersburg transport corridor

Iran President Ebrahim Raisi addressing the SCO Leaders Summit on Tuesday (Image courtesy; Iran Foreign Ministry)

A day after the country’s full accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) under the rotating presidency of India, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi summoned his top ministers on Wednesday, asking them to “pursue more seriously and quickly” the implementation of the development plans of the Chabahar Port and early completion of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).

During the significant meeting held in Tehran, Raisi repeatedly referred to Tuesday’s 23rd Summit of the SCO Heads of State hosted virtually by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and briefed his cabinet ministers about the statements of leaders about the “importance and position of the Chabahar Port” in connecting the Central Asian region to open waters.

In his remarks at the SCO Summit, PM Modi mentioned that strong connectivity is crucial for the progress of any region as it not only enhances mutual trade but also fosters mutual trust. He also cautioned that connectivity initiatives should respect the sovereignty and regional integrity of the Member States.

“Following Iran’s membership in the SCO, we can work towards maximizing the utilization of the Chabahar Port. The International North-South Transport Corridor can serve as a secure and efficient route for landlocked countries in Central Asia to access the Indian Ocean. We should strive to realize its full potential,” said Prime Minister Modi at Tuesday’s meeting which was also attended by Raisi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and several other leaders, including from the Central Asian countries.

Speaking in the meeting of the cabinet on Wednesday morning, Raisi also emphasised the need to make the “joint commissions for cooperation with other countries” more active as a tool for examining ways to strengthen and improve relations with friendly, neighbouring and aligned countries.

raisi iran
(Image courtesy: Office of the Iranian President)

Interestingly, India’s Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian held a meeting in Tehran after Tuesday’s SCO Leaders’ Summit where both discussed the strategic project of Chabahar Port in detail and new opportunities to expand cooperation between the two countries.

This was followed by tripartite negotiations – the 3rd trilateral meeting for the transit facilitation through INSTC – between India, Russia and Iran to resolve existing infrastructural and administrative issues.

“Dr. Amir Abdollahian expressed his hope to witness a new chapter of cooperation in advancing the Chabahar Port and North-South Corridor project,” Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after Misri’s meeting with Amirabdollahian.

India Iran Chabahar
(Image courtesy: Indian Embassy in Iran)

The SCO now comprises India, China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan, covering most of Eurasia.

India has been pushing extensively for the utilization of New Delhi-backed Chabahar port in Iran, and its inclusion in the INSTC framework for improving the land-locked Central Asian region’s connectivity with the outside world.

The large-scale 7,200 km-long North-South multimodal trade corridor, which will start from Mumbai with nodes in West Asia, Central Asia, Caucasia and Russia, would eventually link the far-west Russian city of Saint Petersburg to the ports of Iran and India.

India assumed the rotating Chairmanship of SCO at the Samarkand Summit last September and Iran – an observer state till now – got a full membership of the grouping before its culmination while the process of Belarus’ admission to the organisation has also been accelerated.