MUMBAI: After bagging the strategically important Chabahar Port in Iran, the government is looking eastwards and is in discussions with Bangladesh to develop a similar facility in Paira.
India Ports Global, the joint venture between state-run JNPT and Kandla Port for overseas ports, is interested in the expressions of interest which have been invited for construction of Paira/Payra port in Bangladesh, the Shipping Ministry said in a release today.
"...talks are on between our Foreign Ministry and them (Bangladesh). Dhaka also wants us. We have sent a team there for studies," Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters, but did not disclose the port's location.
A media report in February had said China had evinced keen interest in building the Paira port. In what was taken as a reflection of the growing Indo-Bangladeshi ties, Dhaka had cancelled the deal and was about to award it to New Delhi.
The Narendra Modi government has been talking about an 'Act East' policy, as against the previous regime's 'Look East' policy, and the moves to build maritime infrastructure in Iran in the West and Bangladesh in the East seem to be part of that approach.
The move can also be construed as a reply to the aggressive play by China, which is developing a port in Colombo and Gwadar in Pakistan.
"The Shipping Ministry is closely following the developments in regard to the Paira port so as to secure our national and strategic interests," the release added.
It can be noted that China has embarked on what is referred to as 'string of pearls' strategy, under which it is creating such assets across the circumference of the Indian Peninsula in the Indian Ocean Rim region.
Gadkari's comments come days after New Delhi secured a deal to build the strategic Chabahar port in Iran with an initial capex commitment of USD 500 million, which will help serve our interests in the Gulf country coming out of sanctions, and in the broader region as well.
The minister today said an immediate benefit of developing the Chabahar port will be cheaper gas availability, which can help reduce the urea subsidy bill by Rs 45,000 crore.
There is also a possibility of investments of up to Rs 1 trillion in the Chabahar port region jointly by the ministries of petroleum and fertilisers, and the private sector, Gadkari said.
He said Chabahar will benefit both the state-run Kandla Port Trust as well as Mundra Port in Gujarat through higher cargo volumes. The Mundra Port is owned by the Adani Group.
The minister said his ministry is also planning to build a major port at Belekeri near Karwar in Karnataka, which will entail an investment of Rs 4,000 crore.
Work on the ports at Wadhvan off the Dahanu coast in Maharashtra, Sagar in West Bengal and Colachel in Tamil Nadu will begin this year, he said.
At present, the country has a dozen state-run major ports and is targeting to add eight more, including these four.
Without giving the exact locations or investment details, Gadkari said of the remaining projects, two ports each will come up in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and one in Karnataka, which will be a major port.
He said the government is planning to channel investments of Rs 12 trillion into shipping, ports and allied sectors over the next five years, which will create 10 million direct and indirect jobs.
To smoothen the finances for these ambitious projects,Gadkari today met top bankers in the financial capital but refused to elaborate.
At the state level, Gadkari said Tamil Nadu will get Rs 90,000 crore investments in ports, Karnataka and Goa will attract Rs 10,000 crore investment each, and over Rs 95,000 crore investments will be made in Maharashtra.
He also said a meeting of heads of major ports is scheduled tomorrow in Goa to deliberate on various issues affecting them.
On Mumbai port land redevelopment, he exuded confidence of presenting a draft plan before representatives of the local people and the state administration over the next 20 days. He
added the Mumbai Port Trust will be making a presentation on the same before the ministry in eight days.
Gadkari said his ministry is targeting to increase the profits of state-run Dredging Corporation, Shipping Corporation and Cochin Shipyard to Rs 8,000 crore this fiscal, from Rs 6,000 crore registered in 2015-16.