The initial agreement on Chahbahar was inked in 2016 during Modi's visit to Iran

In a crucial outreach to Iran, which is at the centre of a geopolitical crisis storming the world, New Delhi is geared up to sign an agreement with Tehran to oversee the management of the Chabahar Port for the next 10 years, according to a report by The Economic Times.

Sources familiar with the matter have shared with Economic Times that Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is scheduled for a trip to Iran for signing the deal on Monday.

This marks the first instance of India assuming operational control of a port overseas. Chabahar Port, recognised as India's vital connectivity conduit to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the broader Eurasian expanse, is likely to serve as a counterbalance to Pakistan's Gwadar port and China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. Plans are underway to integrate Chabahar with the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), facilitating India's access to Afghanistan and Central Asia without relying on Pakistan.

The Ministry of External Affairs had given the green light to a proposal by India Ports Global in April to take charge of operations at Myanmar's Sittwe Port in the Bay of Bengal.

The timing of Sonowal's visit to Iran amid a crucial election campaign underscores the significance of the impending pact, which has been in the works for years, experts said. The agreement will empower India to manage the Chabahar Port, the expansion of which it has financially supported. The timing of the visit assumes more significance as the West Asia crisis has been impacting critical trade routes.

Chabahar Port featured prominently in discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during the BRICS summit in South Africa last August, and again in November, during their telephonic exchange on the Gaza crisis.

The initial agreement on Chabahar was inked in 2016 when Modi visited Iran. In 2018, discussions on enhancing India's role at the port were held during then Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's visit to India. The matter was also broached when Foreign Minister S Jaishankar visited Tehran in January 2024.

The new long-term agreement is poised to supersede the original contract, with a validity period of 10 years, extendable automatically.

(With Reporting by Economic Times, MoneyControl)