Iran: Chabahar Port Promise And Nuclear Deal Threat

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On Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Chabahar's Shahid Beheshti Port in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, in the presence of some 70 visiting dignitaries from 17 countries. The port allows India to bypass Pakistan and reach land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.

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.

India and Iran are the signatories to the port development project, the second pact was signed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.

"Through this port, goods will be delivered to neighbouring countries at cheaper prices and in a shorter time", President Hassan Rouhani said at the port, in a speech carried by the state broadcaster.

Chabahar as the only oceanic port of Iran is located 645 km to the south of Zahedan, the provincial capital city. The cargo was sent from Kandla port in Gujarat in October this year.

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.

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With the large investment, a full-fledged operation of the port is likely to ramp up trade between India Iran and Afghanistan and give it a strong entry into the central Asian markets.

"This is a strategic route for India", Amirhossein Esmaeili, director of Shahid Beheshti Port Terminal's Development project, told Al Jazeera.

Those nations are developing the $46bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor that winds down to Pakistan's port of Gwadar, less than 100km from Chabahar.

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

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. The port is expected to be operational by the end of 2018. Chabahar also has an worldwide airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value. "It was also chose to convene an expert-level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the joint statement said. The ministers agreed to further intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and to focus on Chabahar Port development under the May 2016 Trilateral Transit and Trade Agreement.

Giving a boost to bilateral ties between India and Iran, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an unannounced visit to Tehran, while returning from Sochi in Russian Federation, ahead of the inauguration of the strategically important port.