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Chabahar Port Opens, Connects India to Afghanistan via Iran
05 December 2017, 02:26 | Damon Campbell
Iran's President Hasan Rouhani | AP
On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani officially inaugurated the southeastern port in Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province with great fanfare as officials from 17 countries attended a ceremony marking the opening of a new extension of the strategic trade corridor.
The extension of Chabahar port, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, more than tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons of cargo annually, compared with the previous 2.5 million tons.
While India and Iran are signatories to the port development project, a second agreement on connectivity was also signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.
The inking of the port deal had caused tensions between Tehran and Islamabad at the time. The two ministers are understood to have reviewed the implementation of the Chabahar port project in which India is a key partner. It is easily accessed from India's western coast, thus bypassing Pakistan.
Chabahar provides India with an easy land-sea linkup with Afghanistan.
In the president's words, the inauguration of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port marks a historic day for Iran, particularly for the people of Chabahar, IRNA reported.
In October, India sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar, which is about 140km from Pakistan's Gwadar port.
They announced they would organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by the Port. The development of Chabahar Port is a driving force for the country's economic development, especially the South East, and port operations can create added value and employment in the south-east of Iran.
"We hope the relevant cooperation can be conducive to maintaining regional peace and promoting regional stability and prosperity", he said.
India has prepared massive investment plans, which will include a network of roads and railways at a cost of Dollars 15 billion, as part of its strategic push in the area.
Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman will "soon become an important commercial hub for Iran". The shipment is to be taken by trucks to Afghanistan from Chabahar.
Once the project is complete, Chabahar will be linked with the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), which now stretches from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Gulf to Russia, Eurasia and Europe.
While India has been fully devoted to getting its ambitious Chabahar project, Pakistan has left no stone unturned up the game with its investment and alliance with China on Gwadar Port (China Pak Economic Corridor). Both the port development pact and the connectivity agreement were signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tehran in May past year.
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