Rouhani emphasises the project would boost unity among regional countries
TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday inaugurated the first phase of the country’s strategic Chahbahar Port, opening up a transit route between Iran, Afghanistan and India that bypasses Pakistan.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by around 60 officials from 16 countries, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkmenistan. Addressing the ceremony, Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi said that once transportation infrastructures are complete in Chabahar, it will serve as the gateway to regional economies, IRNA reported.
In the inaugural ceremony, Rouhani emphasised that the project would boost unity among regional countries. In October, India sent its first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through Chabahar Port, marking the opening of a new strategic transit route.
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 Times of India reported that Tehran was believed to have asked the Indian government to ‘manage’ the first phase of the port until work for the second phase was finalised.
The Shahid Beheshti extension was inaugurated in the presence of dignitaries from India, Afghanistan, Qatar and Pakistan. A day earlier, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held a meeting with her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran to review the implementation of the Chabahar Port, the Indian media said.
India, Afghanistan, and Iran last year decided to jointly establish a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries. India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chahabar Port along with associated roads and rail lines. The inking of the port deal had caused tensions between Tehran and Islamabad at the time.
However, Iran has assured Pakistan that Chabahar is not being developed to Gwadar, which is itself currently being developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Pakistan currently does not allow India to transport goods through its territory to Afghanistan because of hostility in their ties. Chabahar provides India with an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan.
Lying on the coast of the Gulf of Oman in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province, Chabahar is the country’s only oceanic port and given its strategic location in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), development of the port is of high significance for Tehran.
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.