Iran inaugurates first phase of Chabahar port

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Iran has officially opened an extension of its southeastern port of Chabahar, which Tehran hopes will become a key transit hub for land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The port, located in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, will be inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the presence of representatives from India, Afghanistan and several other countries of the region, according to the report.

The president said: "Neighbouring countries east of Iran, like Afghanistan and our northern neighbours in Central Asia are linked to southern Iran and the open waters and the ocean through this corridor, and this matters politically to us and will develop our relations with eastern and northern countries and even Europe in the future". But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the United States administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran.

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In a major step forward, the first phase of Iran's Chabahar port, which holds significant strategic and economic importance for India, was launched on Sunday. India's state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan.

"We are happy that the first wheat shipment for Afghanistan has been sent to the country's people via the Iranian port", Rouhani said, according to IRNA news agency. "We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar's development".

Later, Radhakrishnan, along with ministers from Afghanistan and Iran, discussed issues related to the full operationalisation of the Chabahar port, a statement from India's foreign ministry said.

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The statement said, "The completion of the internal procedures on the ratification process by Iran is expected to lead to full and early operationalisation of the Transit and Trade arrangement between the three countries though the Chabahar port..."

"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 said.

Shahid Beheshti Port will be regarded as a new development stage for the province, Rouhani said, adding that the capacity of the port is 8.5 million tons.

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Giving a boost to bilateral ties between India and Iran, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made an unannounced visit to Tehran, while returning from Sochi in Russian Federation, ahead of the inauguration of the strategically important port.