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Chabahar: India's Golden Gate To Central Asia

05 December 2017, 02:26 | Myrtle Vega

Iran launches commercial port in Oman Sea

First phase of strategic Chabahar port, party developed by India, inaugurated by Iranian President

Located in the southern province of Sistan, the launch of Phase I Shahaid Beheshti FTZ Port was attended by at least 60 representatives from 17 countries including India and Afghanistan, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

The first three shipments of Indian wheat to Afghanistan were unloaded in the morning, according to the Iranian ports organisation.

Chabahar port inaugurated by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Sunday.

The report said that ahead of the inauguration, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif, held a meeting in Tehran on Saturday to review the implementation of the Chabahar port project, among other issues.

The Chabahar port in Iran, which gives India access to central Asia bypassing Pakistan's Gwadar Port, which is being built by China, was inaugurated on December 3.

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.

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The inking of the port deal had caused tensions between Tehran and Islamabad at the time. India has already completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan, which would facilitate the trade to Kabul and eventually to Central Asia. But, given the fact that the United States 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.

Rouhani downplayed the rivalry with Gwadar in his inauguration speech and said the port will bring "more engagement and unity" among regional countries.

■ The Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea. 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. And India's $2bn commitment to Afghanistan for developing supporting infrastructure including the Chabahar-Hajigaj railway line.

Asked how China views the launch of the project, considering that China is investing heavily in Gwadar as part of the United States dollars 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on it directly. Chabahar also has an worldwide airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman will "soon become an important commercial hub for Iran". Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Chabahar port development pact to develop connectivity with Afghanistan.



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