The first phase of the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman was inaugurated today by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan, and reflecting growing convergence of interests among the three countries.
For India, the investment in Chabahar was important since the port will bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass rival Pakistan.
A total of $1 billion is being invested in the first phase of the Chabahar development project, a joint global project billed as an "International Gateway" by Iranian officials who have invested $403 million (up until now) from the National Development Fund of Iran in the project and gained the approval of India to invest $85 million to complete the project.
While India and Iran are signatories to the port development project, a second agreement on connectivity was also signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.
The port, located in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, will be inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the presence of representatives from India, Afghanistan and several other countries of the region, according to the report. And last month, New Delhi shipped its first cargo of wheat to Afghanistan through the Iranian port, part of 130,000 tons that India plans to export to Afghanistan. In fact, reaching out to Afghanistan is one of the prime strategic objectives of the Chabahar port project for India.
When asked whether Iran is prepared for the U.S. to return to sanctions, Mohammad Rastad, Iran's Deputy Transport Minister in ports and maritime affairs, said "Nothing's happened as yet, has it?"
New Delhi views the Chabahar port project as a strategic response to China's development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and its aggressive pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. India has already completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan, which would facilitate the trade to Kabul and eventually to Central Asia.
In the first phase of the port of Shahid Beheshti, 15 million cubic meters of dredging, 203 hectares of new land, and 1,650 breakwaters have been constructed, and its basin depth is 16.5 square meters.
"Chabahar should also have road, rail and airport to be all set for imports and exports", he added.
Chabahar is Iran's only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti.
Just a day before the historic inauguration, EAM Sushma Swaraj made a surprise stopover at Iran on her way back from Russian Federation and met with her counterpart Javed Zarif.