First phase of Chabahar port inaugurated

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Located in the southern province of Sistan, the launch of Phase I Shahaid Beheshti FTZ Port was attended by at least 60 representatives from 17 countries including India and Afghanistan, Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

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.

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.

Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran a day before the inauguration and discussed the implementation of the Chabahar port project along with other issues. Consisting of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, it was in the days of the last Shah of Iran that a proposal to develop the port was first floated.

Apart from the rise in maritime trade, the port's strategic location gives India access to two overland trade routes: The Trilateral Transport and Transit Corridor (TTTC), which heads north through Afghanistan, and onward into Central Asia, and the North-South Transport Corridor, which uses Iranian infrastructure to pass into Azerbaijan, and through it to Russian Federation and Europe.

The port's inauguration comes more than a month after the first consignment of wheat from India to Afghanistan was sent via Chabahar.

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The port was inaugurated in the presence of representatives from India, Afghanistan and several other countries of the region. India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chahabar Port along with associated roads and rail lines. It is easily accessed from India's western coast, thus bypassing Pakistan. India has already completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan, which would facilitate the trade to Kabul and eventually to Central Asia.

They announced they would organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by the Port. Akbar was speaking at the 7th Meeting of Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA), which was formed to promote peace in Afghanistan. The shipment is to be taken by trucks to Afghanistan from Chabahar.

Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said investments worth 40 trillion rials ($1 billion) are needed to connect Chabahar to Iran's national railroad.

The port, on the Gulf of Oman, Iran's closest coastline to the Indian Ocean, is expected to become a rival to the nearby Pakistani port of Gwadar, which Pakistan is developing with support from China.

Once the project is complete, Chabahar will be linked with the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), which now stretches from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas in the Gulf to Russia, Eurasia and Europe. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Chabahar port development pact to develop connectivity with Afghanistan. As per the reports, the Chabahar port pact allows the Afghanistan to import and export goods from markets like India after reducing its dependence on Pakistan's Karachi port.

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