TEHRAN – Iran and India signed a long-term agreement on Monday based on which India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) will operate a terminal at the strategic Chabahar port as it seeks to expand trade in Central Asia.

The agreement was signed in a ceremony attended by Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash and India’s Ports, Shipping, and Waterways Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Tehran, IRNA reported.

The signing of this agreement is considered a turning point in bilateral and regional commercial and economic cooperation, as well as facilitating strategic cooperation between Iran and India.

According to Sonowal, the agreement, which had been under discussion for some time, is going to “clear the pathway for bigger investments to be made in the port,” he said. Without a long-term agreement, “it’s very difficult to invest in a port,”.

India expects the project will improve its connection with an international north-south transport corridor being developed with Iran and Russia and also improve trade links with Central Asia, Jaishankar said.

“We will see more connectivity linkages coming out of that port,” the Indian minister told local media earlier this week.

The Chabahar port serves as a gateway for Indian goods to reach markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia while bypassing India’s rival and neighbor Pakistan. India sent 20,000 tons of wheat aid to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port last year.

The cooperation between Iran and India on the strategic port dates back to 2003, when New Delhi agreed to develop the port as well as accompanying infrastructure links during the visit by then-President Muhammad Khatami to India. The project has suffered several delays since then and was weighed down by sanctions on Iran.

As Iran's only oceanic port on the Gulf of Oman, Chabahar Port holds great significance for the country both politically and economically. The country has taken serious measures to develop this port in order to improve the country’s maritime trade.

The port consists of Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti terminals, each of which has five berth facilities. The port is located in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan Province and is about 120 kilometers southwest of Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province, where the China-funded Gwadar port is situated.