The strategic Chabahar port in Iran will bypass Pakistan to open a trade and transport route to landlocked Afghanistan. Photograph:( AFP )
The first phase of the project will be inaugurated by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani today
The first phase of the strategic Chabahar port which has been developed by India will be inaugurated by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani today.
Representatives from India, Afghanistan and a few other countries in the region will also be in attendance.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday made a stopover in Iran on her way back from Russia to meet Iran foreign minister of Dr Javed Zarif in Tehran. The two counterparts discussed the implementation of the Chabahar port.
The port will bypass Pakistan to open a trade and transport route to landlocked Afghanistan.
India has committed $500 million to the Chabahar port which is expected to boost trade relations between India, Afghanistan and Iran, and will also give access to India to the resource-rich countries of central Asia.
New Delhi plans to send seven shipments of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar by the end of January, Reuters earlier reported, adding that the port is being viewed by Iran critics US and the United Kingdom as a transport corridor to Afghanistan rather than for advancing Iran's agenda in the Middle-East.
The first shipment of wheat arrived last week from India's Kandla port in Gujarat, after years of political wrangling with Pakistan, government officials in New Delhi and Kabul told Reuters. The wheat will be trucked from Chabahar to western Afghanistan.
The United States, which wants India to do more to help stabilise Afghanistan through economic and security assistance, has held off public criticism of India's efforts to develop the Iranian corridor.
India's ties with Iran came up in New Delhi last month during talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who said America would not stand in the way of projects that help the Iranian people.
The government has set up the India Global Ports Ltd (IGPL) to lead the Chabahar project.
The IGPL has held talks with Iranian authorities to begin interim operations, an Indian government source earlier told Reuters.
In August, the IGPL applied for permission to establish a company to run the port, the source said. The plan is for IGPL to build two new terminals, one for container vessels and one for multipurpose ships.
The first phase is known as the Shahid Beheshti port.
Iran has reportedly asked the Indian government to operate the first phase until work for the second phase is finalised.
(With inputs from Reuters)