NEW DELHI, Dec 3 - The first phase of the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman was inaugurated today by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan, and reflecting growing convergence of interests among the three countries.
The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nation�s southern coast is easily accessible from India�s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan�s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan represented India at the inauguration ceremony of the Phase 1 of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar which was also attended by ambassadors and senior officials of the region.
An India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level trilateral meeting on Chabahar also took place today on the sidelines of the event where the three countries resolved to work towards integrated development of connectivity infrastructure including ports, road and rail networks to open up greater opportunities for regional market access and integration of their economies.
The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
�The routes of the region should be connected on land, sea and air,� Rouhani said at the inauguration ceremony, according to his office.
India has been closely working with Afghanistan and Iran to create alternative, reliable access routes for trade.
Under the agreement signed between India and Iran in May last year, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a 10-year lease.
The MEA, in a statement, said Radhakrishnan also represented India in the second India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level trilateral meeting on Chabahar port in Chabahar today. Iran was represented by its Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi and Afghanistan by its Trade and Commerce Minister Humayoon Rasaw.
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.
A joint statement issued after the meeting said the ministers also deliberated on trilateral pact relating to the mega connectivity project and expressed satisfaction on the completion of the ratification procedures by Afghanistan and India. They welcomed the steps taken by Iran to complete the ratification process. � PTI