New Delhi: Iran will hand over the Chabahar Port to India for operation and maintenance purposes within a month, Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said on Friday. Speaking to ANI, Akhoundi said a contract had already been signed. “We think the Chabahar port will be handed to Indian authorities within one month. It is already operating and will be handed over for management and operation purposes,” the Iranian Minister said. (Also read: 2+2 Dialogue: US Yet to Make Stand Clear on Sanctions on Iran)

Reacting to reports about the US’ intervention in India’s oil imports from Iran, Akhoundi said, “India and Iran’s relationship is essential for the region and we are looking at ways to work together. The USA is an outsider in the region, so the insiders should come together and continue their friendship.”  The Chabahar port complex is expected to pave the way for millions of dollars in trade and is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan.

Both India and Iran signed an agreement worth USD 85 million to develop the port in south-eastern Iran. The agreement, which was signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, gives operational control of Shahid Beheshti port (phase one of the Chabahar port) to India.  Meanwhile, The Times of India pointed out that the delegation is working out a payment mechanism that would help work around the sanctions on Iran. The report said discussions were underway to rope in UCO Bank and Bank Pasargad for a
payment mechanism. The Iranian bank recently has got the go-ahead to open a branch in the country.

Minister of Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari also told the daily that the project should not be affected as the sanctions came much later. “The port project was conceived and built much before the sanctions,” he said.  One of the first tests facing Chabahar is the Iran government’s insistence on a $3.5 million performance guarantee for starting interim operations at the port. Indian authorities have sought an exemption, claiming that it would be tough to comply.