Stressing on the need for enhanced connectivity, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday proposed that the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran be included in the North-South Transport Corridor that has the potential to bridge connectivity barriers, as he reviewed the whole gamut of bilateral relations with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan.
Jaishankar was speaking at a joint press meet with Armenian Foreign Minister Mirzoyan following their meeting here.
Jaishankar on Tuesday arrived in Armenia on the last leg of his three-nation tour to Central Asia with an aim to further expand bilateral ties and discuss key regional issues including the developments in Afghanistan. “Both India and Armenia are members of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which has the potential to bridge the connectivity barrier. So Minister Mirzoyan and I discussed the interest which Armenia has shown to develop the Chabahar Port in Iran and being developed by India," Jaishankar said in his remarks.
“We proposed the Chabahar Port be builded in the International North-South Transport Corridor; we welcome the use of the Chabahar Port and any other initiative that will encourage regional connectivity," he said.
The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port located at a distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.
The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December 2017 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
The Chabahar port is being considered as 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.
Jaishankar said that the two ministers also did a comprehensive review of the bilateral relations.
“We discussed regional and multilateral issues and most importantly agreed on a road map for future course of cooperation and exchanges," he said.
Noting that the bilateral relations have expanded in political and cultural fields, Jaishankar said that there is clearly scope for further strengthening of economic and commercial cooperation and tourism, hospitality, infrastructure and investment. He said that one important bridge between India and Armenia is the presence of a large number of Indian students.
“There are almost, I think, 3,000 of them who are pursuing medical education in Armenia. We very greatly appreciate the efforts of the government of Armenia and people for the welfare of the Indian community, in particular, the students during the pandemic," he said.
He said that India and Armenia’s progression in the UN and multilateral forums have been exclusive.
“We share Armenia’s support for our candidature of non-permanent membership of the UNSC for 2021-22 and also for the permanent membership at the UNSC. Our progression at multilateral forums reflects the strength of our relationship. We are very grateful to Armenia for supporting our candidature to other multilateral forums," he said.
“I am very hopeful that my visit today has enabled us to further our cooperation in various stages. We stand ready to support Armenia for the spirit of our close and friendly traditions," he said.