NEW DELHI, Sept 11 (PTI): India, Iran and Afghanistan held their first tripartite meeting on Tuesday in Kabul during which implementation of the Chabahar port project and a host of other issues including ways to deepen counter-terror cooperation were discussed, officials said.
The Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale while the Iranian team was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi. Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai chaired the meeting.
“The meeting focused on consolidating economic cooperation, including Chabahar, as well as enhancing cooperation on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, and continuing support to the peace and reconciliation process that is led and owned by Afghanistan,” the three countries said in a joint-statement.
It said the three sides agreed to hold the next round of consultation at an appropriate time in India next year.
Sources said the possible impact of the US sanctions on the Chabahar port project also figured in the meeting. All the ports in Iran have also come.
The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on Iran’s southern coast is being developed by India and Iran are also coming under the US sanctions on Iran.
During the two-plus-two talks here last week with the US, India apprised the American delegation about the strategic importance of Chabahar, particularly for enhancing trade with war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The port is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.
The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in December.
The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
Under an agreement signed between India and Iran in May 2016, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a 10-year lease.