Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised Iran's geographical situation as a link between Central Asia and Persian Gulf, saying that the country can serve as the main transit route for Central Asian countries.
Speaking in a joint press conference with Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov on Saturday, Modi said, “I proposed that we should explore multiple options including the additional possibility of land-sea route through Iran.”
Iran is currently a key link along the International North South Transport Corridor, which connects the countries of Central Asia to free waters of the Indian Ocean through its southern ports.
“Connectivity is an area of priority for both countries. If we use the Iran route, Ashgabat is the first capital we would reach in Central Asia. We are grateful for Turkmenistan’s support to India in joining Ashgabat agreement on trade and transit,” the Indian prime minister added.
Modi’s remarks came after an Iranian official said on June 13 that countries in Central Asia are mulling a plan to use Iran's railroad network as transit route for bulk cargoes.
Hossein Ashouri, deputy head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways, said the Central Asian countries have plans to carry various kinds of bulk and container cargoes from the Inchehboroun border crossing in Iran's northern Golestan Province to southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
“They are also willing to transit their needed commodities from Bandar Abbas to Central Asia” using Iran's railroad network, the official added.
Proposing that Turkmenistan should become a member of the International North South Transport Corridor, the Modi said, “Together with the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran rail link, and India's proposed investment in Chahbahar Port in Iran, these initiatives will strengthen connectivity between our countries.”
On May 24, an Indian official announced that his country has started a major project to develop Iran's southeastern port city of Chabahar, noting that the port will be made operational by December next year.
"Work has already begun on the Chabahar port,” said Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister of road transport, highways and shipping, who added, “There is a joint venture of Kandla Port Trust and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. We will start port activities in a year or a year and a half."
Iran and India expect the development of Chabahar Port to create an economic corridor toward Afghanistan and Central Asia that bypasses Pakistan.