Economic engagement with Iran, Afghanistan priority for India: Modi

Tehran, May 23 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the agenda for economic engagement with Iran and Afghanistan is a priority for India and the Chabahar transport and transit agreement “can alter the course of history” of the region.

“The agenda for economic engagement is a clear priority for us. We stand together in unity of our purpose,” Modi said in a joint media conference with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani following the signing of the trilateral agreement on the Chabahar port for transport and transit corridor.

“Today, we are witnessing a creation of history… “Not just for the people of our three countries, but for the entire region,” he said.

Pitching to carve out “new routes of peace and prosperity” of the three countries, Modi said: “It is our common goal. We want to link with the world.”

The prime minister said the Chabahar transport and transit corridor “would spur unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region”.

He said the inflow of capital and technology could lead to new industrial infrastructure in Chabahar.

“This would include gas-based fertiliser plants, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and IT,” the prime minister said.

“The key arteries of the corridor would pass through the Chabahar port of Iran.”

He said Afghanistan would now get an assured, effective, and a more friendly route to trade with the rest of the world.

“The arc of economic benefit from this agreement would extend beyond our three nations,” Modi said.

Stating that its reach could extend to the Central Asian countries, he said that when linked with the International North South Transport Corridor, “it would touch South Asia at one end and Europe at another”.

“And, studies show that as compared to the traditional sea routes, it could bring down the cost and time of the cargo trade to Europe by about 50 percent,” he said.

“Over time, we could even look to connect it with the strong sea and land based routes that India has developed with the Indian Ocean region and Southeast Asia.”

The prime minister said the global economy was yet to fully come out of uncertainty and weakness.

“Our present growth and future prosperity is under threat from the spread of radical ideas and physical terror,” he said.

He said the Chabahar corridor would be a “corridor of peace and prosperity for our peoples. Motives of economic growth, and empowerment would drive it. It would break barriers among our nations and encourage new benchmarks of people-to-people contacts”, and help lead to a friendly and healthy neighbourhood.

He said the three countries — India, Iran and Afghanistan — were estimated to have more than 60 percent of their population under 30 years of age.

“We want them to walk the road to knowledge and skills; industry and enterprise,” he stated.

Modi expressed confidence that the economic fruits of the Chabahar agreement would expand trade, attract investment, build infrastructure, develop industry and create jobs for our youth.

“The agreement will strengthen our ability to stand in mutual support against those whose only motto is to maim and kill the innocents,” he said.

On his part, President Rouhani said that through this agreement, Tehran, Delhi and Kabul have sent the message that the path of progress can be achieved through cooperation and utilisation of regional resources.

“With our joint investments in Chabahar, we can connect India with Afghanistan, Central Asia and the CIS countries,” he said.

He also said that there was room in the agreement for other countries to join in.

Speaking on the occasion, Afghan President Ghani said Asia was changing and it was moving towards being an economic continent.

“We wanted to prove that geography is not our destiny. With our will we can change geography,” he said.

He also said that in the coming years, $60 trillion would be invested in infrastructure and most of it would be invested in Asia.

–IANS

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