Iran Inaugurates Major Port Extension

Marie Harrington
December 5, 2017

Speaking at the event, however, Iran's president said regional rivalries should give way for "more engagement and unity" in the region.

When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first segment of the four-phased Chabahar Port on Sunday - India, Afghanistan and Iran materialised a 15-year-long plan.

The extension required an investment of $1 billion, including $235 million from India.

In the meeting, the three countries assessed the progress in the development of the port and reiterated their commitment to complete and operationalise it at the earliest, which they felt would provide alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan to regional and global markets. Interest in the project was rekindled in 2013 after Iran and the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany reached an interim agreement on Tehran's nuclear programme and some sanctions were lifted. "For them to carry goods to Afghanistan via Pakistan is either impossible because of security concerns or it is subject to excessive costs". The Iranian port is only about 80 km from Pakistan's Gwadar port.

New Delhi views the Chabahar port project as a strategic response to China's development of the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and its aggressive pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative. However, Iran has assured Pakistan that Chabahar is not being developed to rival Gwadar, which is itself now being developed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The Indian government has committed $500 million to Chabahar, with the aim of joining an increasingly important transport corridor to resource-rich regional countries, according to Indian sources.

"We have held successful negotiations with worldwide partners following the JCPOA", Rastad told Al Jazeera. "In addition, it can bring us closer to the world", Rouhani concluded.

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Billions of trade and investment deals were signed, after the nuclear deal, with companies from India, China, Russia, western Europe and the U.S. itself.

Aside from the United States, all other parties to the nuclear deal have defended it, stressing it has been effective.

The two powers back opposing groups throughout the region - notably in Syria and Yemen - and Saudi leaders have lately stepped up efforts to counter Iran's growing influence, raising fears of further conflict.

Iran says its missile programme is for defensive purposes and denies the other accusations. IRGC-affiliated firms have had a significant share in Iran's port activities. An 8bn dollar India-Iran MoU for Indian industrial investment in Chabahar Special Economic Zone.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during talks in New Delhi last month said America would not stand in the way of projects that help the Iranian people.

Whether Tillerson's words still stand remains to be seen.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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