The handover of the cranes took place during a visit to Iran by a senior Indian foreign ministry official J.P. Singh who is in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in New Delhi
The move comes after the election and swearing-in of the new Biden administration in Washington
NEW DELHI: India on Sunday handed over two cranes to be used for handling cargo at the strategic Shahid Beheshti port at Chabahar in Iran that New Delhi is developing as a counter to the China-built Gwadar port in Pakistan.
The handover of the cranes took place during a visit to Iran by a senior Indian foreign ministry official J.P. Singh who is in charge of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in New Delhi.
“Mr. J.P. Singh, JS(PAI) @Meaindia handed over two 140 ton mobile harbor cranes, the first shipment of equipment being supplied by India for the development of phase-I of Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar," said a post by the Indian embassy in Tehran.
The move comes after the election and swearing-in of the new Biden administration in Washington. US president Joe Biden has favoured a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal that was struck between Tehran and the world community in 2015 for capping its nuclear programme.
Then US President Donald Trump walked out of the pact in 2018 and imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran mainly crippling its oil industry. While the port at Chabahar was exempt from sanctions – as it was seen as crucial for the economic uplift of Afghanistan – Indian industry was seen as hesitant to engage Tehran given Trump’s strong views against the Shia majority country.
Located in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province on Iran’s south-eastern coast, Chabahar port gives India a sea and land access route into landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia through Iran. The project is considered strategic given that it rivals Pakistan’s Gwadar port that is a key part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, one of the strands of China’s ambitious multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative.
The two cranes are among four that New Delhi was looking to procure since 2017. Last year, India cancelled a contract with a Chinese firm -- Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries worth almost $30 million -- for four rail-mounted quay cranes, pointing to delays by the Chinese firm in supplying the equipment ordered in 2017.
According to a response given by the Indian foreign ministry to parliament last year, the Shahid Beheshti port has handled 12 lakh tons of cargo and 8200 containers since December 2018. India has used the port to send wheat consignments to Afghanistan. It was in 2018 that an Indian company -India Ports Global -- had taken over the operations of the port. India Ports Global is a fully owned by Sagarmala Development Company Ltd, a company controlled by the Shipping Ministry.