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At their first joint working group meeting on the Shahid Behesti Terminal located at Chabahar port in Iran, India along with the five central Asian nations reaffirmed that connectivity initiatives should comply with global norms, transparency, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
The comments, mentioned in a joint statement released on Friday the 14th of April 2023 following the meeting hosted by India in Mumbai on April 12 and 13, came amid growing global criticism of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The statement said the participants at the meeting noted that further development of regional connectivity is essential for enhancing trade and commerce between India and the central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India.
The meeting was chaired by Secretary (ER) and attended by the Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The special invitees for the event were the country representative of the UN World Food Program (UNWFP), Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
During the meeting, the Managing Director, India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) gave a comprehensive presentation on the facilities and the current operations at the Shahid Behesti Terminal, Chabahar Port.
Country Representative for UNWFP made a presentation on the ongoing cooperation between India and UNWFP in Afghanistan for the delivery of wheat assistance for which port facilities at Chabahar are extensively used.
Consul General of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan emphasized the significance of Chabahar Port for the delivery of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and providing economic opportunities for the Afghan businessman and traders.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed to hold the next round of India-Central Asia Joint Working Group (JWG) in Iran along with the participation of the private sector.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) there was a broad agreement on six points which included among others –
Agreement on the role played of Shahid Behesti Terminal, Chabahar Port in facilitating the shipments of humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people. Since, IPGL took over operations in December 2018, India has utilized the port to ship a total of 2.5 million tons of wheat and two thousand tons of pulses to Afghanistan.
The participating countries noted that the further development of regional connectivity is essential for enhancing trade and commerce between India and Central Asian countries in the context of their land-locked nature and lack of overland connectivity with India.
It was also reaffirmed that the connectivity initiatives should confirm with international norms, rule of law, respect for international commitments, and is based on mutually agreed principles of sustainable connectivity, transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial sustainability and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
The member nations emphasized that the connectivity projects deserve priority attention and could be a force-multiplier for trade and economic cooperation and contacts between countries and people.
The working group agreed to include participation of private sector with regard to connectivity issues. In order to facilitate large-scale private investments in sustainable connectivity the participants expressed their commitment to implement relevant international standards, to ensure a level playing field for companies and to ensure reciprocal access to markets.
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