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'India-Russia-Iran transport corridor will boost trade with Central Asia' 

SME Times , Jul 07, 2015

The proposed International North South Transport Corridor expected to be discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ongoing five-nation tour to Central Asia will to give a major boost to India's trade with the region, industry chamber FICCI said on Monday.

"The International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which may figure in the talks between the leaderships of the Central Asian countries and Indian officials, once fully operational, will address the issue of poor connectivity and high transport costs to a large extent," the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry said in a statement in New Delhi.

A high-powered FICCI delegation, representing sectors such as construction, pharmaceuticals, mining, banking, power transmission and IT, is accompanying the prime minister on his visit to Kazakhstan on July 7 and 8, it said.

"Top Indian companies such as Essar Group, GMR, BHEL, NASSCOM, Punjab National Bank, Lupin, Punj Llyod and SUN Group are being represented in the business delegation," it added.

The INSTC agreement was signed more than a decade ago with Russia and Iran for better connectivity to the Eurasian region through Iran. The INSTC members met last month and reviewed the status of report on the dry run between India, Iran and Russia via the Caspian Sea, while a follow-up meeting has been slated for this month.

The transport corridor across Nhava Sheva (Mumbai) through Bandar Abbas port (Iran) to Astrakhan (Russia) and Baku (Azerbaijan) is expected to substantially cut cargo transportation time between India, the Central Asian region and Russia.

Modi is also slated to visit Ufa City in Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS summits, where he will also have an extended meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on plans to further the strategic partnership between their countries.

Modi's visit to the Central Asian countries will be the first by an Indian prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru to a region linked by history with India.

While Kazakhstan is a major oil producer and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have some of the biggest natural gas reserves, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are estimated to have considerable untapped reserves.