India on Thursday termed as "speculative" the media reports on its involvement in the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project, asserting that the Iranian side was to nominate an authorised entity to finalise the outstanding technical and financial issues related to the venture which was still awaited.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that since 2016, despite the difficulties posed by the sanctions situation, there has been significant progress on the Chabahar port project. His remarks come after media reports claimed that India has been left out of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project in Iran.
"We have seen some speculative reports about Chabahar Port and the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project," he said.
"With regard to the port, you are all aware that a longstanding commitment from 2003 was finally operationalised in 2016 during the Prime Minister's visit to Iran. Since then, despite the difficulties posed by the sanctions situation, there has been significant progress on the port project," he said.
An Indian company has been operating the port since 2018 and has steadily scaled up the traffic there, Srivastava said.
"Since December 2018, 82 vessels have been handled there including 52 in the last 12 months alone. The port handled 12 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo and 8,200 containers," Srivastava said.
Proactive measures are currently underway to increase the usage of Chabahar port, both for Afghanistan and Central Asia, he said.
"Insofar as the proposed railway line is concerned, IRCON was appointed by the government of India to assess the feasibility of the project. It was working with CDTIC, an Iranian company under their Ministry of Railways in that regard," Srivastava said.
IRCON has completed the site inspection and review of the feasibility report, he said.
"Detailed discussions were thereafter held on other relevant aspects of the project, which had to take into account the financial challenges that Iran was facing. In December 2019, these issues were reviewed in detail at the 19th India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting in Tehran," Srivastava said.
"The Iranian side was to nominate an authorised entity to finalise outstanding technical and financial issues. This is still awaited," he said.
Taking note of some reports regarding the Farzad-B Gas field negotiations in which ONGC was involved in the discovery stage, Srivastava said follow-up bilateral cooperation was, however, impacted by policy changes on the Iranian side.
"In January 2020, we were informed that in the immediate future, Iran would develop the field on its own and would like to involve India appropriately at a later stage. This matter remains under discussion," he said.