EghtesadOnline: Some 120,000 tons of wheat and pulses have been exported to Afghanistan, mainly from India, through Chabahar Port in southern Iran since October 2017 when the first such Indian consignment passed through the strategic port until Dec. 21, the head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization's Port and Economic Affairs Bureau said.
“These consignments were transported to Chabahar via 10 large vessels over the 14-month period,” Mohammad Ali Hassanzadeh was also quoted as saying by IRNA on Saturday.
The four ports of Kochi, Kandla, Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru have been designated for exporting Indian commodities to Chabahar.
With the opening of the Indian Ports Global Limited's office in Chabahar on Monday, Iran has officially leased the operational control of Shahid Beheshti Port to India, according to Financial Tribune.
The Indian company is a joint venture managed by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Kandla Port Trust for the development of ports overseas.
The Indian company’s operational control would last for an interim period of 1.5 years, which may be followed by an additional 10-year period.
Loading and unloading as well as supply of equipment and marketing will be part of the IPGL mission in Chabahar.
The first phase of the strategic Iranian port, developed in cooperation with India, was inaugurated by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Dec. 3.
Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports: Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti.
The opening of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port (out of five phases defined for the project), which has tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country), will allow the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan.
The inauguration of IPGL office was timed to coincide with a trilateral meeting of officials from India, Afghanistan and Iran in Chabahar on Monday, during which the three sides agreed on the routes for trilateral trade and transit.
India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a pact in May 2016, which entailed the establishment of transit and transport corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides the multimodal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.
Under an agreement, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port's Phase-I with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million.
Located in Sistan-Baluchestan Province on Iran's energy-rich southern coast, Chabahar is easily accessible from India's western coast. The port is 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. It is located less than 100 nautical miles from the Chinese-built port of Gwadar in Pakistan.
The United States has exempted Chabahar from new sanctions on Tehran, recognizing the value of the project to Afghanistan.
Trump's May decision to unilaterally pull out of the nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers, including the United States, in 2015 and impose "toughest ever" sanctions against the Islamic Republic has been opposed by European powers as well as other nations, including India, which has mutually beneficial relations with Iran.
India has poured $2 billion into Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
New Delhi sees Chabahar as a key route both to send supplies to Afghanistan and to step up trade with Central Asia as well as Africa.
Iran plans to link the port by railroad to Zahedan on the Pakistani border up to Mashhad in the northeast.
On the back of a rail link that stretches to Iran’s northwestern border, Chabahar will facilitate the transport of goods from India to the landlocked countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as Afghanistan.
India has agreed to build a 500-km railroad from Chabahar to Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan, close to the Afghan border. India’s state-owned IRCON has agreed to build a rail route at a cost of $1.6 billion as part of the transit corridor to Afghanistan.
After connecting Chabahar to Zahedan, the railroad will be linked to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Hence, when the Afghan cargo arrives in Zahedan, it can be transported by a 1,380-km railroad to Chabahar and then shipped to India.
It was in 2003 that India first proposed developing Chabahar Port seen as a gateway for the country to access the landlocked markets of Afghanistan and Central Asia, as New Delhi’s tense ties with Pakistan blocked overland trade through Pakistan.