The first phase of the Chabahar Port project in Iran, which was developed with investment from India, was inaugurated on Sunday. India had invested $500 million (approximately Rs 3,200 crore) in the project, which was built to bypass Pakistan and open a trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the Shahid Beheshti port in the presence of representatives from India, Afghanistan and a few other countries in the region.
Rouhani said the port will bring engagement and unity among the regional countries. “We should go after positive competition,” he said, according to AP. “We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar’s development [a port developed by China in Pakistan].”
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday stopped over at Tehran on her way back to India from Russia. She discussed the port with her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif. “It also shows the importance of the port in the development of the region and the routes that connect Central Asian states to other countries in the world through the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean,” Zarif said, according to NDTV.
On October 30, India had sent its first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port. The Iranian trade point is seen as a move to counter China’s Gwadar Port in Pakistan, which is around 100 km from Chabahar.
In May 2016, India and Iran had signed the highly-anticipated deal on the port, which lies in a free trade zone and will be of great strategic value to New Delhi. In February 2016, India had approved a credit line of $150 million (around Rs 1,000 crore) towards the project.