Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of the Chabahar port on Sunday. The port also known as ‘Shahid Beheshti’ port is located in South-eastern Iran.
- The idea of India-Iran cooperation on Chabahar port development was first mooted in 2003 during the visit of then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to New Delhi. Progress was however delayed because of nuclear related sanctions on Iran.
- The nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers agreed in July 2015 and subsequent lifting of sanctions from Iran in January 2016 brought the much required momentum towards the development of Chabahar port project.
- The visit of India’s Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi to Iran in May last year revived this project.
- During that visit, India had signed a number of agreements on Chabahar port including a Trilateral Agreement to establish International Transport and Transit Corridor among India, Iran and Afghanistan.
- This is the first of the four planned phases of development of Chabahar port wherein the second phase is being developed by India.
- India has agreed to construct two terminals including five berths at Chabahar port which involves investment of US $ 85 million.
- Additionally, India has also agreed to extend US $ 150 million credit facility to Iran through Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) for the Chabahar port development.
Benefits of Chabahar Port for India –
For India, involvement in the development of Chabahar port is driven by the potential benefits in economic, political and strategic realms.
Chabahar port provides India the land connectivity through which it can export its finished goods to Afghanistan and Central Asian markets and can similarly import goods from there.
The political benefits of India’s cooperation in Chabahar port is primarily related to India’s deeper and long-term engagement with Iran through joint infrastructural projects.
India’s participation in Chabahar port also provides considerable strategic dividends. Chabahar first and foremost, provides India alternative land connectivity to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. Similarly, landlocked Afghanistan also now does not need to solely depend on Pakistan to connect with India.
Chabahar project is also seen as a strategic counterweight to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which is being developed by China under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’. Chabahar also serves as a crucial link to the fructification of the International North-South Transport Corridor connecting Mumbai in India to St. Petersburg in Russia through sea, rail and road transportations.
India Iran and Afghanistan reiterated their commitments to complete all the phases of the Chabahar port at the earliest under the purview of the Trilateral Agreement. While the inauguration of the first phase of Chabahar port project makes the port operational, it also paves the way for faster development of the second phase that is being undertaken by India.