India is inching closer to establishing its presence near the Persian Gulf with billionaires Gautam Adani and the Essar group’s Ruia brothers flagging interest in managing terminals at Iran’s Chabahar port, which India first agreed to develop 14 years ago, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone Ltd., operator of India’s largest port, and Essar Ports Ltd. are among companies that have expressed an interest in managing and operating two terminals at Chabahar, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing confidential matters. India Ports Global Ltd., the company mandated to drive India’s investments in overseas ports, on March 17 invited firms to express interest if they want to be considered for a strategic partnership.

Chabahar, outside the Gulf of Hormuz, has both economic and geo-political significance for India as it will provide new sea-trading routes and connectivity to Afghanistan while also countering China’s growing presence in the region. The South Asian nation has been criticized for falling behind on developing the port even as China marches ahead with the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor that

winds down to the port of Gwadar, across Iran’s border with Pakistan.
Apart from Adani and Essar, the J.M. Baxi group, known in India for its chartering, broking and other shipping services, has also shown interest, the people said.
“We keep looking at growth opportunities in the businesses that we are in,” Essar spokesman Manish Kedia said in an emailed response to questions. “It is not our policy to comment on any specific proposal.”
A spokesman at J.M. Baxi confirmed the company’s interest in the port, while Roy Paul, a spokesman for Adani, didn’t answer phone calls or respond to an email seeking comment.
Indian Ports Global will announce names of companies or consortia eligible to bid for the project by the end of April, following which final bids will be invited, according to the document inviting interest from firms.
Once a strategic partner is selected, a special purpose vehicle will be established at Chabahar to manage day-to-day operations, according to the document. Construction of the terminals is nearing completion and the process to procure equipment is underway. The selected partner will manage, operate and maintain the terminals for 10 years, according to the document.
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