Excellencies, Friends, Ladies & Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Government of India, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this event. I congratulate my colleague, Minister of State Shri Mansukh Mandaviya ji, for the successful organization of the second edition of the Maritime India Summit and the Chabahar Day.
The search for efficient trade routes and better connectivity has been one of the powerful driving forces of history. It has determined the prospects of many nations, regions and civilizations over time. Today, as the world goes through a fundamental re-balancing, correcting many of the distortions of the past, it is only natural that connectivity should be central to that exercise.
In the modern age, the correlation between connectivity and economic growth has got even more pronounced. Growth in trade, commerce, industrial development and technological advancement has gone hand in hand with ease of connecting.
Maritime connectivity, in particular, has played a significant role in creating regional corridors for trade and economic linkages, as indeed for cultural and intellectual exchanges over the centuries. They too assume a new prominence in contemporary times, for being more competitive, seamless and greener. The access of land-locked economies to maritime movements has, therefore, been a particular focus of recent initiatives.
The shift in the fulcrum of global economic growth towards Asia is creating unprecedented opportunities for connectivity in the region. There is a huge infrastructure deficit in the region which needs to be met to fulfil the growing aspirations of our peoples.
The Government of India, recognising the importance of regional connectivity, made a landmark decision to undertake an overseas port investment in Chabahar. While this project had been under discussion for some time, it was during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016 that a Trilateral Agreement to establish an International Transport and Transit Corridor that was signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.
The transport and transit corridor is intended to ensure the unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region and to create a safe, secure and reliable route to trade initially with Afghanistan, and thereafter with Central Asia as a whole.
The establishment and operations of India Ports Global Limited at Shahid Behesti Port in Chabahar is the practical realisation of this important initiative. I compliment Minister Mandaviya and his team, as well as his Iranian partners, for the steady growth of these port operations. In a short while, they have established both its credibility and its relevance.
Today’s event reflects India’s strong commitment to work together with all regional stakeholders to enhance connectivity in our region and to provide unhindered access to the sea to landlocked Central Asian countries through Chabahar.
Today’s event also commemorates five years of the signing of the Tripartite Agreement on the establishment of a Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor. This agreement is a fitting tribute to the rich civilisational, cultural and trade links between India, Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.
The Chabahar port has not only emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region but also facilitated the delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The port is part of our shared commitment towards peace, stability and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan. India has utilized the Chabahar port to ship 75,000 MT of wheat as humanitarian food assistance to Afghanistan in September 2020.
India also assisted Iran to fight the worst ever locust invasion in the last 25 years by supplying 25 Metric tonnes of Malathion in June 2020, again through the Chabahar port. The second batch of 25 Metric tonnes has recently reached Chabahar Port.
Besides the Indian exports of food products, the port has also handled several shipments and trans-shipments from Russia, Brazil, Thailand, Germany, Ukraine and the UAE.
The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is an important trade corridor project, wherein India is partnering with 12 countries to establish an economic corridor for the benefit of our peoples. We also welcome the interest of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to join the multilateral corridor project. Establishing an eastern corridor through Afghanistan would maximize its potential. India has also proposed the inclusion of Chabahar in the INSTC route. I am hopeful that during the INSTC Coordination Council meeting, member states would agree to the expansion of the INSTC route to include the Chabahar Port and also agree on expanding the membership of this project.
I, look forward to the discussions during the two webinar sessions scheduled today on boosting businesses through regional connectivity and development of port infrastructure. These discussions would be useful to identify the way forward on the Maritime Transport Cooperation between the regional partners and how landlocked countries can utilize the same to maximize their business opportunities.
I wish you all success and hope that your discussions in each of these sessions would help to narrow down the specific parameters that help us to build the vision of enhanced regional connectivity.
I Thank you for your attention!