Iran Inaugurates New Extension to its Main Port of Strategic Importance

Trevor Jackson
December 4, 2017

While the new extension opens up a strategic transit route from India to Afghanistan and Central Asia - bypassing Pakistan - the Iranian government has reportedly asked India to "manage" or operate the first phase of the port, till the work for the second phase is finalized.

The port's inauguration comes more than a month after the first consignment of wheat from India to Afghanistan was sent via Chabahar - the first shipment after the trilateral agreement to develop the port as a transport and transit corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian and Afghan Presidents Rouhani and Ashraf Ghani, respectively, in May past year.

Transit via Chabahar's Shahid Beheshti Port is $1,000 cheaper than ports of Pakistan and even 15 million rials ($375) cheaper than Shahid Rajaee Port, Iran's biggest container port at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, the director general of Ports and Maritime Organization of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Behrouz Aqaei, said.

The port's inauguration comes more than a month after the first consignment of wheat from India to Afghanistan was sent via Chabahar. India has committed $500 million to build the port to bypass Pakistan. The capacity of the port is 8.5 million tonnes.

Iran also plans to link the port to the country's railroad network to facilitate transit of goods to neighbouring landlocked Central Asian countries, as well as open a route to eastern and northern Europe through Russian Federation, he said.

It was inaugurated in the presence of dignitaries from India, Afghanistan, Qatar and Pakistan. Chabahar provides India an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan.

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According to the Indian statement, at the trilateral meeting, the Indian, Iranian and Afghan Ministers "agreed to further intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and focusing on Chabahar port development under the Trilateral Transit and Trade Agreement".

"We should go after positive competition", he said.

The first phase of the project, known as the Shahid Beheshti port, is being seen as a reinforcement of "mutual and regional cooperation" between Iran and India, according to an Indian media outlet. The $340 million project is also expected to make Chabahar, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, a rival to Gwadar Port, some 80 km away (50 miles) across the border in Pakistan, which Pakistan has been building with Chinese investment.

A railway route is also under construction from Chabahar to Zahedan (centre city of Sistan-Baluchestan Province) to boost the capacity of the new strategic transit route.

Ahead of the inauguration of the port, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran during which the implementation of the Chabahar port project was discussed.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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