India, Iran, Afghan to expedite work on full operationalisation of Chabahar port

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

Iran launches commercial port in Oman Sea

On Sunday, the first phase of the Chabahar port was officially inaugurated by Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran.

The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi. After 15 years after India and Iran first formally agreed to develop Chabahar port in January 2003 and it was inaugurated yesterday.

Upon the completion of the five phases of Shahid Beheshti development project, which also includes a railroad (Chabahar-Zahedan) to connect to the International North-South Transportation Corridor, the port's capacity will reach 85 million tons and that would improve Iran's transit services and facilitate trade between Europe and Central Asia through Iran.

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State TV said President Hassan Rohani attended the inauguration on December 3 along with dignitaries from India, Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries.

Over a month ago, India sent the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port, which Swaraj remarked as a gift from Indians to Afghans.

■ The Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea. This pact allows Afghanistan to use Chahbahar port to ship its goods to markets like India, thereby reducing its dependence on Pakistan and its Karachi port.

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"This is a strategic route for India", Amirhossein Esmaeili, director of Shahid Beheshti Port Terminal's Development project, told Al Jazeera.

Thus, India regards the port as a strategic response to China's development of the Gwadar Port, and its pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

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

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In late October, the US Treasury Department added major IRGC-linked companies such as the port construction and operation companies Tidewater Middle East Co and Iran Marine Industrial Company to its SDN list. Chabahar also has an worldwide airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value. "It is expected that a trilateral coordination meeting of senior officials will be convened at the earliest". 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. "It also shows the importance of the port in the development of the region and the routes that connect Central Asian states to other countries in the world through the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean", he said.

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