Rouhani inaugurates Chabahar port’s Shahid Beheshti

By Zeeshan Ghayur
ISLAMABAD: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a newly built extension of the port of Chabahar, “Shahid Beheshti port,” 80 kilometres away from Pakistani border on Omani gulf, on Sunday; Indian shipping minister Pon Radhakrishnan, after having attended the second meeting of the India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level trilateral meeting on Chabahar port development, represented India at the inauguration ceremony.

The port of Chabahar with the newly built extension, Shahid Beheshti, has boosted its capacity to, carry out all portal operations of container terminals and, unload annually at least 8.5 million tonnes, compared with the previous capacity of 2.5 million tonnes.

Iranian president Rouhani said, “We appreciate that our neighbouring country is rapidly developing Gwadar port” adding “Both brotherly countries should take it positively and harmoniously compete with each other” asserting “the Iranian port will bolster healthier trade links with regional countries” appreciating “the people of Chabahar will benefit from the arising employment opportunities” reiterating “The first 110,000 tonnes of wheat shipment to Afghanistan from India was successfully sent through Chabahar port.”

India had been eyeing avenues of bypassing Pakistan to reach the land locked central Asian countries and had committed $500 million to build extensions on the port of Chabahar, the project stands completed within $340 million.

Currently the Iranian authorities are busy in building a 650 kilometres rail link from Chabahar to Zahedan and into Afghanistan; India for the rail link has committed $1.6 billion.

Iran, in turn, eyes the commonwealth of independent states (CIS) for making their shipments make way through the port of Chabahar; somewhat the same Pakistan had been eyeing through Gwadar, apart from China’s interest of bringing for itself cheaper goods.

An Indian statement on Sunday said, “Indian shipping minister Radhakrishnan expressed his positive appreciation to the Iranian side on the recent steps taken towards ratification by the Majlis of Iran on the trilateral transit and trade agreement signed in May 2016 between India, Iran and Afghanistan.”

The statement added, “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.”

The Indian statement concluded, “It is expected that a trilateral coordination meeting of senior officials will be convened at the earliest.”

Earlier, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, on her return from Shanghai cooperation organisation (SCO) summit, arrived in Iran on Saturday and exchanged views with her Iranian counterpart foreign minister Javad Zarif on cooperation so far in Chabahar port’s Shahid Beheshti extension.