Iran opens $1-billion extension at port rival to Gwadar

Located 645 km to the south of Zahedan, the provincial capital city, the only oceanic port of Iran will now link its Sistan and Baluchestan provinces to Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Iran has officially opened an extension of its southeastern Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman. In October, India sent its first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through Chabahar Port, marking the opening of a new strategic transit route. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the United States administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran. Ahead of the inauguration, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on a surprise stopover in Tehran met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif on Saturday and discussed the Chabahar port project among other issues.

The project was constructed by Khatam al-Anbia, the largest Iranian contractor of government construction projects, reported Associated Press.

The three sides also commended the recent joint efforts, which led to the transit of first consignment of 1,10,000 tonnes of wheat from India to Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port, which Swaraj remarked as a gift from Indians to Afghans.

Rouhani inaugurated the expansion, carried out with an investment of $1bn including $235mn from India, which has more than tripled the port's capacity to 8.5 million tonnes a year, state television reported. "We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar's development". "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 added. "It was also made a decision to convene an expert level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the statement said.

He also said that the operation of this port is very important for Sistan and Baluchistan province, adding: "Connecting the nationwide railway to Chabahar can also create an even better condition for this region".

Shahid Beheshti Port will be regarded as a new development stage for the province, the President said.

Moreover, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has made an unannounced visit to Tehran while returning from Russian Federation ahead of the inauguration of the port with an aim to boost the ties between India and Iran, news agency ANI reported.

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