In big strategic breakthrough, Chabahar port inaugurated by Iranian President (Evening Lead)

In big strategic breakthrough, Chabahar port inaugurated by Iranian President (Evening Lead)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani today inaugurated the first phase of Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman, which will open up a new strategic transit route among Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.

The project was officially opened in a ceremony attended by 60 foreign guests from 17 countries at the port located by the Sea of Oman. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the U.S. administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran. Under the agreement signed between India and Iran in May last year, India is to equip and operate two berths in the Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease. India has been working with Afghanistan to create alternative, reliable access routes, bypassing Pakistan.

It said that the first phase of the Chabahar port project is known as the Shahid Beheshti port.

The move to develop Shahid Beheshti Port started in 2007 through an investment that officials previously said amounted to $1 billion.

"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.

The extension of Chabahar port, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, more than tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons of cargo annually, compared with the previous 2.5 million tons.

It was inaugurated in the presence of dignitaries from India, Afghanistan, Qatar and Pakistan. "It was also reiterated to organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by Chabahar port", it added.

The statement said, "The completion of the internal procedures on the ratification process by Iran is expected to lead to full and early operationalisation of the Transit and Trade arrangement between the three countries though the Chabahar port..."

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks in Tehran with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday, discussing bilateral relations and other issues.

Rouhani added that the port is also politically important "because it will connect us to the eastern and northern countries, and even to European countries in the future, and this is politically important to us".

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