Iran Inaugurates Chabahar Port Expansion

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New Delhi has committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chabahar port along with roads and railway lines in order to get access to the Afghan and Central Asian markets while bypassing rival Pakistan.

Iran is believed to have asked the Indian government to "manage" or operate the first phase of the port until work for the second phase is finalized.

Reiterating the commitment to complete and operationalise the Port at the earliest, Radhakrishnan, along with Iranian Transport Minister Dr Abbas Akhoundi and Afghanistan Trade and Commerce Minister Humayoon Rasaw, reviewed and positively assessed the progress in the development of the Chabahar Port in the trilateral meeting.

"Today, five wharfs have been inaugurated in the first phase and building this Port will create many jobs for the people of Iran and the province of Sistan and Baluchestan".

Over a month ago, India had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port, marking opening of the new strategic transit route. "It was also reiterated to organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by Chabahar port", it added.

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Analysts say the Chabahar port could challenge Pakistan's Gwadar port, some 80 kilometers from Chabahar, which is being developed with Chinese investment. The capacity of the port is 8.5 million tonnes. "The routes of the region should be connected on land, sea and air", Rouhani said at the inauguration ceremony, according to his office.

"We should go after positive competition", he said in his inauguration speech.

Radhakrishnan appreciated the Iranian side on the recent steps taken towards ratification by the Majlis of Iran on the trilateral transit and trade agreement signed in May 2016 between India, Iran and Afghanistan.

The first phase of the project, known as the Shahid Beheshti port, is being seen as a reinforcement of "mutual and regional cooperation" between Iran and India, according to an Indian media outlet.

Ahead of the inauguration, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met her Iranian counterpart Zarif in Tehran on Saturday, during a surprise stopover on her way back from a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Russian Federation, and discussed the port project among other issues.

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