Phase One of Chabahar Port to be Inaugurated

SUSHMA IRAN

According to the sources after Chabahar port, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of the Shahid Beheshti port in the Sistan-Baluchistan province.

The Chabahar port is likely to ramp up trade among India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi for trade with the two countries.

Rouhani inaugurated the expansion, carried out with an investment of $1bn including $235mn from India, which has more than tripled the port's capacity to 8.5 million tonnes a year, state television reported.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan represented India at the inauguration ceremony of the Phase 1 of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar which was also attended by ambassadors and senior officials of the region.

At a press conference last week, the head of Sistan-Baluchestan's Ports and Maritime Bureau said costs for each 20-foot container were $1,000 lower if transported through Chabahar to Afghanistan compared with the Pakistan route. The cargo was sent from Kandla port in Gujarat in October this year.

Once two-thirds of this capacity is realised, five other jetties will be built to increase the capacity of the port to 82-85 million tonnes.

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The US, however, has held off criticism of India's involvement in developing Chabahar, hoping greater Indian investment in Afghanistan will help to stabilise the country.

The country has already completed the Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan that will enable Afghanistan to access the sea ports in Iran and end its dependence on Pakistan for sea access.

"Chabahar should also have road, rail and airport to be all set for imports and exports", he added. The port is expected to be operational by the end of 2018. "It was also chose to convene an expert-level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the joint statement said. Iranian Parliament or Majlis recently ratified the trilateral trade agreement signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Rouhani and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani in May 2016.

"If Chinese naval ships are to be based in Gwadar in future, it will pose security challenges to us, which we will have to look at and mitigate", said Navy chief Sunil Lamba in a statement to reporters. "It also shows the importance of the port in the development of the region and the routes that connect Central Asian states to other countries in the world through the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean", he said.

Just a day before the historic inauguration, EAM Sushma Swaraj made a surprise stopover at Iran on her way back from Russian Federation and met with her counterpart Javed Zarif.

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