Published: Mon, December 04, 2017
World | By Melba Underwood

Iran Inaugurates Chabahar Port Expansion

Iran Inaugurates Chabahar Port Expansion

The first phase of Chabahar port was inaugurated on Sunday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening up a new strategic transit route between Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the United States administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran. The Times of India reported that Tehran was believed to have asked the Indian government to "manage" the first phase of the port until work for the second phase was finalised.

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. India's state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan. "We are happy that the first wheat shipment for Afghanistan has been sent to the country's people via the Iranian port", Rouhani said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a pact in May this year to develop the Chabahar port and other related infrastructure. "We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar's development". India has committed $500 million to build the port to bypass Pakistan.

The extension, which includes five new ports, more than triples the capacity of the strategic port, bringing it to 8.5 million tons of cargo annually, from the previous 2.5 million. "It was also chose to convene an expert level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the statement said.

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Moreover, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has made an unannounced visit to Tehran while returning from Russian Federation ahead of the inauguration of the port with an aim to boost the ties between India and Iran, news agency ANI reported.

Being Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, the Chabahar port is expected to be a rival of Pakistan's Gwadar Port which the neighboring country has been building with investments from China.

The port will increase the capacity of loading and unloading of the ships as well as the employment rate in the province, according to an official with the Sistan and Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organisation.

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