Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Iran inaugurates $1bn Chabahar Port extension

Iran inaugurates $1bn Chabahar Port extension

Makran is a coastal area in the southeastern part of Iran and southwest of Pakistan that extends across the Gulf of Oman; these are the golden gulfs of the country to the open seas and the key to taking advantage of this exceptional opportunity is its development.

The Chabahar port development project was conceived by India and Iran during the previous NDA regime. China is now developing the Gwadar Port in Pakistan which is also 100 kms away from the Chabahar port.

The port's inauguration comes more than a month after the first consignment of wheat from India to Afghanistan was sent via Chabahar - the first shipment after the trilateral agreement to develop the port as a transport and transit corridor between India, Iran, and Afghanistan was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian and Afghan Presidents Rouhani and Ashraf Ghani, respectively, in May 2016. Under a tripartite deal, India has committed $500 million for the project to be fully operational by the end of 2018.

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.

The project, work on which started in 2007 at an estimated cost of Dollars 1 billion, has had India's backing from as far back as 2003; but after Modi initiated trade talks with Iran, the usa had questioned India of risking violations of worldwide sanctions. USA sanctions on Iran during the Presidency of George Bush slowed down progress.

But while the port is being seen to reinforce mutual and regional cooperation between Iran and India, it is yet to be seen how India's relations with Washington will be affected by this, which has had a financial embargo on Tehran.

However, India's relationship with Iran is being highlighted as primarily focused on economic and energy issues, with the USA administration having recognised India's need for a trade route. Japan is also partnering India for expansion of the Chabahar Port complex - one of India's primary connectivity initiatives for the region that juxtaposes of sorts with China's BRI.

Pakistan has also made it overtly clear to China that Gwadar venture is purely based on shared economic interests. By implementing this project, the Chabahar port connects to the country's rail network, and it is possible to connect the railways of the eastern corridor to the Sarakhs border and to access Central Asian countries to free waters through Iran's soil.

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