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EghtesadOnline: The three sections of the railroad project connecting the southeastern port city of Chabahar to the eastern city of Zahedan near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan will be inaugurated by June 21, 2021.

The announcement was made by the head of Plan and Budget Organization, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, during his visit to Sistan-Baluchestan on Tuesday. 

“This railroad project consists of three sections: Chabahar-Iranshahr, Iranshahr-Khash and Khash-Zahedan. Khash-Zahedan Section will be completed by Feb. 10, 2021, during the 10-Day Dawn (Fajr) festivities that mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and by March 20, 2021, Chabahar-Iranshahr will be inaugurated and hopefully the remaining section will be launched by June 21, 2021. A total of €300 million have been allocated to this project from the resources of the National Development Fund of Iran,” Nobakht was quoted as saying by IRNA.

The withdrawal from NDFI came after Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei authorized the government to spend funds needed to complete the rail project from the sovereign wealth fund.

The 610-kilometer railroad project from Chabahar to Zahedan (730 kilometers, including the sidings) got off the ground in the fiscal 2010-11, only to come to a halt for three years due to a lack of resources. The execution of the project resumed in the year ending March 2015, after a change of contractor.

The railroad to Zahedan is crucial, as it is vital for connectivity to landlocked Afghanistan via Chabahar. The port in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan Province is strategically important for India too, allowing it access to Afghanistan while bypassing Pakistan.

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.

India has also agreed to contribute to the construction of the railroad from Chabahar to Zahedan. A memorandum of understanding worth $2 billion was signed by Iran and India’s Railway Ministry in February 2019 during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to India.

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.

India Global Ports Limited has been tasked with administering and running Chabahar's Beheshti Port terminal. The entity is planning to invest $500 million over the next 10 years in the port.

When Chabahar is connected to Iran's national railroad network, the port will have a bigger share in the Asian transportation market.

Back in January 2019, India’s Shipping Ministry officially announced that the country has officially taken over the operations of the strategic Chabahar Port.

"This marks the beginning of a long journey. With its engagement in Chabahar, India is now leading regional cooperation and joint efforts to support landlocked Afghanistan. This is the first time India will be operating a port outside its territories," an Indian government's statement read. 

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.

The first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port was inaugurated in December 2017 by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan. 

The inauguration of the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port (out of a total of five development phases) has tripled Chabahar's capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country). It allows the docking of super-large container ships (between 100,000 DWT and 120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan.

Chabahar is of high strategic importance for Iran, as it is the country’s only oceanic port, which bypasses the narrow chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz connected to the Persian Gulf. It is only 70 kilometers west from Gwadar Port, the starting point of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The China Overseas Port Holding Company operates Gwadar Port.



Project Pakistan Chabahar Afghanistan Railroad Zahedan