Iran Inaugurates Chabahar Port Expansion

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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani poses during the inauguration of Chabahar port near the Pakistani border in Iran on Sunday. The Iranian port is only about 80 km from Pakistan's Gwadar port.

The Chabahar Port project was ratified in 2016 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Iran, the first visit by an Indian PM since 2012.

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.

Iran has launched one of its major post-nuclear deal projects - the port of Chabahar - pushing further for engagement with the global community, days before the US Congress' expected decision on whether Washington will pull out of the landmark worldwide accord. The port allows India to bypass Pakistan and reach land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. India had already tested the waters over a month ago when it sent a consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port, marking the opening of the new strategic transit route.

India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed MoU's that have committed nearly $21bn to Chabahar-Hajigak Corridor, including $85m for Chabahar port development by India, $150m line of credit by India to Iran.

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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In fact, the feeling in Afghanistan is that they would no longer need to depend on Pakistan for transit trade.

"We hope the relevant cooperation can be conducive to maintaining regional peace and promoting regional stability and prosperity", he said. 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. The shipment is to be taken by trucks to Afghanistan from Chabahar.

India's quest to find a direct route to Afghanistan and beyond by bypassing Pakistan seems to be answered with the identification of Chabahar as its strategic gateway.

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.

Chabahar Port is geographically located in a very convenient position for India, which is in Southeast Iran at the Gulf of Oman and serves as Iran's only Oceanic Port in the Indian Ocean. As per the reports, the Chabahar port pact allows the Afghanistan to import and export goods from markets like India after reducing its dependence on Pakistan's Karachi port. Both the port development pact and the connectivity agreement were signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tehran in May previous year.

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