India-Iran MoU on Seafarers

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    • India and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the smooth movement of seafarers between both countries.

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    • MoU and the International Convention:
      • The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is signed on recognition of Certificates of Competency in Unlimited Voyages.
      • It aims to help seafarers from both countries as per the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (1978).
    • Chabahar Port:
      • The role of Chabahar as a trade multiplier for the region was highlighted during the event as the potential of the port to act as a swift, economical trade conduit between Central Asia and South Asia, and even South East Asia, remains to be tapped fully.
      • Shahid Behesti Terminal:
        • Shahid Behesti Port is likely to act as a catalyst to unlock the huge trade potential in the region.
        • For India, the Shahid Behesti terminal of Chabahar Port is a crucial cog in the potentially game-changing International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
    • Significance:
      • The seafarer agreement is the first tangible development after years of dormancy owing to the unfulfilled potential of the port and Covid-related restrictions.

    Chabahar Port

    • It is slated to be India’s gateway for trade with central Asian and European nations, along with increased engagement with Russia, once its potential is leveraged by linking it to INSTC. 
    • It was developed with Indian assistance and is currently operated by state-owned India Ports Global.

    International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)

    • Origin: 
      • The legal framework for the INSTC is provided by a trilateral agreement signed by India, Iran and Russia at the Euro-Asian Conference on Transport in 2000. 
    • Aim: 
      • To reduce the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30% and reduce the transit time from 40 days by more than half.
      • The corridor is expected to consolidate the emerging Eurasian Free Trade Area.
    • Connectivity & Length:
      • It is a 7,200-km multi-modal transport corridor that combines road, rail and maritime routes connecting Russia and India via Central Asia and Iran. 
      • It links the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea via the Persian Gulf onwards into Russia and Northern Europe.
      • It offers the shortest connectivity route between India and Russia.

    India-Iran Relations 

    • Historical:
      • India-Iran relations span millennia marked by meaningful interactions.
      • The two countries shared a border till 1947 and share several common features in their language, culture and traditions
    • Political relations:
      • India and Iran signed a friendship treaty on March 15, 1950.
      • Tehran Declaration:
        • Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Tehran in 2001 and signed the “Tehran Declaration” which set forth the areas of possible cooperation between the two countries.
        • It recognised then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s vision of a “dialogue among civilisations” as a paradigm of international relations based on principles of tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity
      • The New Delhi Declaration:
        • In 2003, both sides signed “The New Delhi Declaration” which set forth the vision of a strategic partnership between India and Iran. 
    • Security:
      • Both India and Iran also consult each other on security matters.
      • There are regular bilateral exchanges at the level of National Security Advisors and Deputy National Security Advisors. 
    • Economic and Commercial Relations:
      • India-Iran commercial ties were traditionally dominated by the Indian import of Iranian crude oil
      • The bilateral trade during 2019-20 was $4.77 billion, a decrease of 71.99% as compared to the trade of $17.03 billion 2018-19.
      • India’s major exports to Iran:
        • It includes rice, tea, sugar, soya, medicines/pharmaceuticals, man-made staple fibres, electrical machinery, etc. 
      • Major imports from Iran: 
        • It includes inorganic/organic chemicals, fertilisers, cement clinkers, fruits and nuts, leather, etc. 
    • Connectivity:
      • During the visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Tehran in May 2016, the contract on the Shahid Beheshti port of Chabahar was signed which, inter-alia, comprises investment of $85 million for procuring equipment of the port. 
        • The contract also comprises the provision of a line of credit of approximately USD 150 million for the development of the port.
        • After operations began at the Chabahar port in December 2018, the port handled more than 8200 TEUs and 1.28 million tonnes of bulk cargo. 
    • Humanitarian Assistance:
      • India has also helped Iran in times of natural disasters and health emergencies.
        • India delivered aid that included PPE kits and PCR machines to Iran in April 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis.
      • India provided 40,000 litres of Malathion 96% ULV pesticides to Iran via Chabahar port in a concerted effort to mitigate locust threat to agriculture and enhance food security in the region.
    • Cultural Relations:
      • An Indian Cultural Centre in Tehran was inaugurated in 2013. 
        • The Cultural Centre was renamed the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC) in 2018 and was provided with separate premises in 2019. 
        • The International Day of Yoga was organised in 2018, 2019 and 2020. 
        • The 550th Birth Centenary of Sri Guru Nanak was also observed. 
        • The centre conducts regular Yoga and Hindi classes.
    • People-to-people contacts:
      • There is a high level of commitment in both countries to promote and facilitate people-to-people contacts. 
      • Indian pilgrims visit the Shi’a pilgrimage circuit in Iran (Qom, Mashhad, Hamedan) and Iraq (Najaf and Karbala) every year.

    International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978

    • Origin, amendments and enactment:
      • STCW was adopted in 1978 by a conference at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London and entered into force in 1984. 
        • India is a signatory to the convention.
      • The Convention was significantly amended in 1995 and 2010 entered into force on 1 January 2012.
    • About:
      • The Convention prescribes minimum standards relating to training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers which countries are obliged to meet or exceed.
    • Significance:
      • The 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish minimum basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level
      • Previously the minimum standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings were established by individual governments, usually without reference to practices in other countries. 
        • As a result, minimum standards and procedures varied widely, even though shipping is extremely international by nature.

    Source: TH