Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurates strategic Chabahar Port

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday presided over the opening of a $1bn extension to Iran's southeastern Chabahar port, which Tehran hopes will become a key transit route to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Reiterating the commitment to complete and operationalise the Port at the earliest, Radhakrishnan, along with Iranian Transport Minister Dr Abbas Akhoundi and Afghanistan Trade and Commerce Minister Humayoon Rasaw, reviewed and positively assessed the progress in the development of the Chabahar Port in the trilateral meeting.

Chabahar as the only oceanic port of Iran is located 645 km to the south of Zahedan, the provincial capital city.

Over a month ago, India sent the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port, which Swaraj remarked as a gift from Indians to Afghans. "It was also reiterated to organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by Chabahar port", it added.

However, downplaying the rivalry during the inauguration, Rouhani said, "This port is also significant from the political point of view given that it connects Iran with its eastern and northern neighbors and at a later stage to European states".

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Swaraj said India remains committed to working closely with its regional and global partners to restore peace, security, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan. It involved several subcontractors, including a state-run Indian company, and brings the capacity of the port to 8.5 million tonnes of cargo annually, from the previous 2.5 million tonnes.

Chabahar provides India with an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan.

The MEA said the three countries agreed to further intensify efforts on issues concerning regional connectivity and Chabahar port development under the trilateral transit and trade agreement at the meeting. "It was also chose to convene an expert level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the statement said.

Ahead of the inauguration of the port, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran during which the implementation of the Chabahar port project was discussed.

Being Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, the Chabahar port is expected to be a rival of Pakistan's Gwadar Port which the neighboring country has been building with investments from China.

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