Chabahar port, made by India, inaugurated in Iran

Chabahar port, made by India, inaugurated in Iran

Chabahar port, made by India, inaugurated in Iran

Iran officially opened a $1 billion extension of its Chabahar port in the Gulf of Oman on Sunday.

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. Consisting of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, it was in the days of the last Shah of Iran that a proposal to develop the port was first floated.

In October, India sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar, which is about 140km from Pakistan's Gwadar port.

"The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalization of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan", the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had said in a statement.

Though the Chabahar port was partially built by India in the 90s, a host of geopolitical issues, including USA sanctions on Iran, and India's sudden apathy had put paid to such ambitions.

New Delhi views the Chabahar port project as a strategic response to China's development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and its aggressive pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. But, given the fact that the USA is now India's close ally and Russian Federation too stands to gain from the trade routes, it is fair to assume that both Pakistan and China won't indulge in disruptive activities.

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The Indian government has committed $500 million to Chabahar, with the aim of joining an increasingly important transport corridor to resource-rich regional countries, according to Indian sources.

"We hope the relevant cooperation can be conducive to maintaining regional peace and promoting regional stability and prosperity", he said.

In the first phase of the port of Shahid Beheshti, 15 million cubic meters of dredging, 203 hectares of new land, and 1,650 breakwaters have been constructed, and its basin depth is 16.5 square meters. And India's $2bn commitment to Afghanistan for developing supporting infrastructure including the Chabahar-Hajigaj railway line.

It is also expected to make Chabahar, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, a rival to Gwadar Port, some 80 kilometers away (50 miles) across the border in Pakistan, which Pakistan has been building with Chinese investment. This also means that Afghanistan will not need to be dependent on Pakistan's Karachi port alone for sending its goods out to global markets.

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. 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.

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