Iran, India, Afghanistan sign Chabahar agreement

Iranian Chabahar port deems India’s golden gateway to Central Asia

December 7, The Iran Project – The inauguration of the first phase of the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar in southeastern Iran, has opened new doors to India to the landlocked countries of Central Asia.

Chabahar Port is considered as a collaboration between India, Afghanistan and Iran to continue trading through Central Asia and finding an alternative to entering the landlocked Central Asian countries.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on Sunday inaugurated a $1 billion extension of its southeastern Chabahar port which Tehran hopes will help the country become a key transit route to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Partnering with Iran in the port development project is India, which is hoping to use the route to bypass Pakistan and reach Afghanistan and landlocked Central Asia.

The inauguration of the port project comes some 15 years after India and Iran first formally agreed to develop the Chabahar port in January 2003.

Recent developments in Chabahar have made the port a cost efficient and indispensable transit destination for modern container ships carrying cargo along the International North-South Transit Corridor.

Golden Opportunity

India’s Ministry of External Affairs described the inauguration of Iran’s Chabahar Port project as a golden opportunity for New Delhi to enhance its regional role and cooperation.

In a statement, it referred to the visit of the Indian Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan to Iran on the occasion, noting that the ceremony was attended by ministers, ambassadors and senior officials primarily from countries of the region.

According to the statement, Radhakrishnan, during his two-day visit on 2-3 December 2017, represented India in the 2nd meeting of the India-Iran-Afghanistan Ministerial-level Trilateral Meeting on Chabahar Port Development and involving the respective Ministers of Iran and Afghanistan.

For India, the investment in Chabahar was important since the port will bolster a trade route for landlocked Central Asian countries that would bypass rival Pakistan. Last year, India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chabahar port along with associated roads and rail lines.

And last month, New Delhi shipped its first cargo of wheat to Afghanistan through the Iranian port, part of 130,000 tons that India plans to export to Afghanistan.

Chabahar also has an international airport and Iran’s Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

Regional Cooperation

On November 11, Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad Reza Bahrami described the Chabahar Agreement as a good example of regional cooperation and said it is no threat to anyone.

Bahrami rejected the idea that the Iranian port of Chabahar is a rival to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, adding that, “Chabahar is not a threat to anyone.”

He also called  for cooperation by all regional countries to prepare the ground for the development of the region.

Highlighting the port’s berthing, loading and unloading capacity, he said its capacity has now reached 8.5 million tons.

The envoy also pointed to Chabahar’s proximity to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries and called for improvement of the regions’ transit infrastructure.

 Chabahar Bill

On Nov. 22, Iranian lawmakers passed a bill on agreement for establishment of international transport and transit corridor among Iran, India and Afghanistan, also known as Chabahar Agreement.

The agreement that includes an introduction and 15 articles was presented by Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, had been approved during a cabinet meeting back in October last year and it was submitted to the parliament last week in the form of a bill for passing legal procedures.

The bill was finally put into force in the public session of the Parliament and was passed by the Iranian MPs on Wednesday morning.

The purpose of the agreement is to improve relations between the three countries of Iran, India and Afghanistan and facilitate transportation and transit of goods and passengers through railway, road, air and customs in the port of Chabahar.

The bill, which was approved by 163 votes in favor, one against and two abstentions from a total of 200 MPs present at the session, gives way to establishment of an international transportation and transit corridor between the governments of Iran, Afghanistan and India.

Chabahar Port is geographically located in a very convenient position for India, which is in Southeast Iran at the Gulf of Oman and serves as Iran’s only Oceanic Port in the Indian Ocean. It consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantri and Shahid Beheshti (inaugurated yesterday) each of which having five berths.

For sure, a full-fledged operation of the port is likely to ramp up trade between India, Iran and Afghanistan and give it a strong entry into the Central Asian markets.