Chabahar Port inaugurated by Iranian President; allows India to bypass Pakistan

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

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

While India has been fully devoted to getting its ambitious Chabahar project, Pakistan has left no stone unturned up the game with its investment and alliance with China on Gwadar Port (China Pak Economic Corridor).

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.

Asked how China views the launch of the project, considering that China is investing heavily in Gwadar as part of the Dollars 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment on it directly. It is also a gateway to accessing the Central Asian markets for Indian goods.

As per reports from the MEA (Ministry Of External Affairs), at present ministers from all the three countries i.e. India, Afghanistan, and Iran have agreed to further intensify cooperation on better connectivity, and development of Chabahar Port and a meeting of senior officials for the discussions is expected soon.

Rouhani, however, downplayed the Pakistan angle in his inauguration speech and said the port will bring "more engagement and unity" among regional countries.

He emphasised that the project was specifically important, given that it connects the trade corridors that pass through Iran to the sea route. Along with the plans to link the port with Afghanistan and central Asia, there are also plans to link it with Russian Federation and Europe through 7,200-km-long multi-modal North-South Transport Corridor.

The port is being made with an investment of $1 billion, of which India has so far invested $235 million.

At a press conference last week, the head of Sistan-Baluchestan's Ports and Maritime Bureau said costs for each 20-foot container were $1,000 lower if transported through Chabahar to Afghanistan compared with the Pakistan route. It can also accommodate 100,000-tonne ships, which India feels has strategic and economic potential as a rival to the Gwadar port.

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Pakistan has banned India from transporting goods through its territory to Afghanistan.

Once two-thirds of this capacity is realised, five other jetties will be built to increase the capacity of the port to 82-85 million tonnes.

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. The Iranian port is only about 80 km from Pakistan's Gwadar port.

India has committed to the $500 million to the Chabahar port.

India sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port over a month ago, marking opening of the new route.

Reiterating the importance of Chabahar as a hub for regional economic connectivity and their commitment to work towards this objective, the Ministers commended the joint efforts of the three countries in the recent successful transit of wheat from India to Afghanistan through Chabahar.

Alongside the ceremony, Indian, Afghan and Iranian officials held a trilateral meeting to discuss implementing the trade and transit agreement announced in May 2016.

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