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Phase 1 of Shahid Beheshti Port Development Plan in Chabahar inaugurated

05 December 2017

Rouhani inaugurated the expansion, carried out with an investment of $1bn including $235mn from India, which has more than tripled the port's capacity to 8.5 million tonnes a year, state television reported.

The port in Iran's Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nation's southern coast is easily accessible from India's western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located around 80 kms from Chabahar.

State TV said President Hassan Rohani attended the inauguration on December 3 along with dignitaries from India, Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries. India had already tested the waters over a month ago when it sent a consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port, marking the opening of the new strategic transit route.

It is speculated the port will still take a year to be fully functional and benefit the trio as per the plan. India's commitment for the port is $500 million.

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"The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalization of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan", the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had said in a statement.

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

India, Iran and Afghanistan recently signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading toward Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar. 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.

Secondly, with India's ever increasing demand for natural gas and crude oil, the port could be a door for the country to import both resources from Iran and Central Asia.

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India has prepared massive investment plans, which will include a network of roads and railways at a cost of United States dollars 15 billion, as part of its strategic push in the area. Chabahar also has an global airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

The next four phases of Shahid Beheshti Port will be completed and put into operation, which will eventually reach 82 million tonnes. "It was also chose to convene an expert-level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the joint statement said.

Swaraj met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif held a meeting on Saturday in Tehran and discussed about the Chabahar port project among other issues.

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Phase 1 of Shahid Beheshti Port Development Plan in Chabahar inaugurated