Iran Opens Chabahar Port: Pak Isolated, Indian Commerce To Get Big Boost

Iran President Rouhani

Iran President Hassan Rouhani while inaugurating Chahbahar Port on Sunday

While India has been fully devoted to getting its ambitious Chabahar project, Pakistan has left no stone unturned up the game with its investment and alliance with China on Gwadar Port (China Pak Economic Corridor). It opens up a torrent of possibilities for India: Access to land-locked countries without Pakistan's interference; the development of the region spearheaded by India; and a royal snub to China whose clout in the subcontinent has grown exponentially. It is also key to accessing the Central Asian markets for Indian goods.

However, Rohani downplayed the rivalry in his speech, saying the port would bring "more engagement and unity" among regional countries. The port will eventually open a route to eastern and northern Europe through Russian Federation.

The extension required an investment of $1 billion, including $235 million from India.

Rouhani also underlined the importance of Chabahar as Iran's only port outside the Gulf, and therefore outside an area that is often the locus of tensions with the US Navy and Iran's regional rivals.

It is speculated the port will still take a year to be fully functional and benefit the trio as per the plan.

India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to grant preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar to Indian goods headed toward Central Asia and Afghanistan.

The inauguration comes at a time when Pakistan is blocking access between India and Afghanistan. The Indian government has committed United States dollars 500 million to Chabahar, with an aim to join an increasingly important transport corridor to resource-rich regional countries.

"Chabahar should also have road, rail and airport to be all set for imports and exports", he added.

"Chabahar will soon become an important commercial hub for Iran", Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi said at the ceremony. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Iran in 2016, and the signing of a $500-million deal for the development of the Chabahar port brought in fresh impetuous. Chabahar provides India an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan.

Over a month ago, India had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port in Iran. After 15 years after India and Iran first formally agreed to develop Chabahar port in January 2003 and it was inaugurated yesterday. Both the port development pact and the connectivity agreement were signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tehran in May past year.

Chabahar is Iran's only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti. "It was also made a decision to convene an expert-level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the joint statement said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the port would reinforce mutual and regional cooperation between Iran and India.

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.

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