Iran inaugurates new Indian Ocean port

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

India, Iran, and Afghanistan moved closer to each other - keeping Pakistan at an arm's length - with the inauguration of the first phase of Iran's first oceanic port Chabahar, on Sunday by the country's President Hassan Rouhani.

As per the agreement signed between India and Iran in May 2016, India will equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port in its first phase with an investment of 85.21 million dollars and an annual revenue expenditure of 22.95 million for a 10 year lease.

The port in Iran's Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nation's southern coast is easily accessible from India's western coast. In October though, India flagged off a shipment of wheat for Afghanistan through Iran's Chabahar port-marking the operationalization of the port for the trans-shipment of goods from India to the landlocked country. The Indian government has committed Dollars 500 million to Chabahar, with an aim to join an increasingly important transport corridor to resource-rich regional countries.

India's interest in the port dates back to 1990 when as per an IDSA report it partially built the port in order to access Afghanistan and Central Asia by bypassing Pakistan.

The inauguration comes at a time when Pakistan is blocking access between India and Afghanistan.

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"The ministers agreed that an integrated development of connectivity infrastructure including ports, road and rail networks would open up greater opportunities for regional market access and contribute towards the economic integration and benefit of the three countries and the region", the statement said.

India has prepared massive investment plans, which will include a network of roads and railways at a cost of Dollars 15 billion, as part of its strategic push in the area.

India is partnering with Iran in the port development project to use the route to bypass Pakistan and reach Afghanistan and Central Asia. Chabahar also has an worldwide airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value. "We welcome the development of friendly relations between the regional countries and conduct mutually beneficial cooperation", he said.

■ With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, it could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated, should the need arise. "It is expected that a trilateral coordination meeting of senior officials will be convened at the earliest". "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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