Iran had gone silent on rail project: In­dia

Now, ONGC arm OVL is out of Farzad-B gas field ex­plo­ration project af­ter $100 mn in­vest­ment

The Hindu - - NEWS - Suhasini Haidar

The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia says it had not re­ceived any re­sponse from Iran since De­cem­ber 2019 on the fu­ture of the Chaba­har-Zahedan rail­way project that the sta­te­owned rail­way con­struc­tion com­pany IR­CON was to have con­structed and fi­nanced. The ONGC’s for­eign arm OVL is also out of the Farzad-B gas field ex­plo­ration project.

The gov­ern­ment cited pol­icy changes by the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment, Iran’s pre­car­i­ous fi­nances, and the U.S. sanc­tions sit­u­a­tion as the rea­sons for the de­ci­sions on In­dian in­fra­struc­ture projects in Iran, which would both be un­der­taken through lo­cal com­pa­nies in­stead.

Last week, Ira­nian Rail­ways and its trans­port de­part­ment in­au­gu­rated lay­ing of track for the 628-km stretch from the south­ern port city of Chaba­har to Zahedan on the bor­der with Afghanista­n. Of­fi­cials had told

The Hindu that the track would now be funded by Iran’s own Na­tional De­vel­op­ment fund.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs (MEA), IR­CON had com­pleted its site in­spec­tion and re­view of the fea­si­bil­ity re­port for the project last year un­der an MoU signed be­tween In­dia and Iran dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit in 2016. “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,” said MEA spokesper­son Anurag Sri­vas­tava re­spond­ing to ques­tions on var­i­ous in­fra­struc­ture projects in Iran, in­clud­ing the re­port by The

Hindu on the rail­way line. “In De­cem­ber 2019, is­sues [on the rail­way line] were re­viewed in de­tail at the 19th In­dia-Iran Joint Com­mis­sion Meet­ing in Tehran. The Ira­nian side was to nom­i­nate an au­tho­rized en­tity to fi­nal­ize out­stand­ing tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial is­sues. This is still awaited,” Mr. Sri­vas­tava stated but de­clined to com­ment specif­i­cally on Iran’s de­ci­sion to be­gin the project with­out In­dia.

On Wed­nes­day, Farhad Mon­taser, an of­fi­cial in Iran’s Ports and Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said In­dia’s MoU for the rail line had never fruc­ti­fied in an agree­ment. “We had a list of In­dian in­vest­ments in Chaba­har port, which also in­cluded the is­sue of Chaba­har rail­way in­fra­struc­ture and the rail­way but dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, it was not agreed [upon],” he told of­fi­cial news agency IRNA.

The MEA also con­firmed that In­dia is no longer in­volved in the Farzad-B gas field project where ONGC had orig­i­nally signed an agree­ment for ex­plo­ration in 2002, in­vest­ing ap­prox­i­mately $100 mil­lion thus far. The MEA said “pol­icy changes” in Iran were re­spon­si­ble for the de­ci­sion but didn’t give de­tails.

“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,” Mr. Sri­vas­tava said.

In­dia had pro­posed to in­vest $1.6 bil­lion in the Chaba­har-Zahedan rail­way line, and ap­prox­i­mately $6 bil­lion in the Farzad-B gas field project.

Chaba­har Port project

The MEA said In­dia’s main in­vest­ment in the Chaba­har Port where it has taken over op­er­a­tions of one ter­mi­nal, had pro­gressed well in the last few years, han­dling 82 ships with 12 lakh tonnes of bulk cargo in 8200 con­tain­ers since De­cem­ber 2018.

“De­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties posed by the [U.S.] sanc­tions sit­u­a­tion, there has been sig­nif­i­cant progress on the port project. Proac­tive mea­sures are cur­rently un­der way to in­crease the us­age of Chaba­har Port, both for Afghanista­n and Cen­tral Asia,” Mr. Sri­vas­tava said at the brief­ing.

A file im­age of the Chaba­har Port. In­dia had pro­posed to in­vest $1.6 bil­lion in the Chaba­har-Zahedan rail­way line.

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