In big strategic breakthrough, Chabahar port inaugurated by Iranian President (Evening Lead)

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A total of $1 billion is being invested in the first phase of the Chabahar development project, a joint worldwide project billed as an "International Gateway" by Iranian officials who have invested $403 million (up until now) from the National Development Fund of Iran in the project and gained the approval of India to invest $85 million to complete the project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a pact in May this year to develop the Chabahar port and other related infrastructure.

The project in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province was inaugurated in a ceremony attended by 60 foreign guests from 17 countries at the port located by the Sea of Oman, official IRNA news agency said.

A month ago, India sent the first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port, which Swaraj called a gift from Indians to Afghans. In a joint statement, the three countries reiterated their commitment to organising a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar at the earliest so as to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by the port.

The extension of Chabahar port, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, more than tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons of cargo annually, compared with the previous 2.5 million tons.

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Chabahar is Iran's only oceanic port town and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti.

It said that 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". "It was also chose to convene an expert level meeting of senior officials of the three countries at the earliest", the statement said.

The report said that ahead of the inauguration, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif, held a meeting in Tehran on Saturday to review the implementation of the Chabahar port project, among other issues.

Iranian Foreign Ministry said Zarif referred to the Shahid Beheshti Port and said it reinforces Iran-India mutual and regional cooperation.

A railway route is also under construction from Chabahar to Zahedan (centre city of Sistan-Baluchestan Province) to boost the capacity of the new strategic transit route.

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