Rouhani told reporters the first phase of the worldwide Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar has been launched to connect the eastern and northern neighboring countries to Indian Ocean, adding that the North-South Transport Corridor is the main project among others, which connect the south of Iran to the north.
Representatives from India, Afghanistan and several other countries of the region were present during the inauguration of the port in Iran's southeastern Sistan- Baluchestan Province. The port allows India to bypass Pakistan and reach land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. But New Delhi has proceeded cautiously at a time when the USA administration has taken an aggressive new approach toward Tehran.
The first-phase of the Chabahar port project is known as the Shahid Beheshti port. 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.
It said that Zarif had referred to the Shahid Beheshti Port and said it reinforces mutual and regional cooperation between India and Iran.
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India and Iran had signed a bilateral agreement a year ago, in which New Delhi would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.
Thus, India regards the port as a strategic response to China's development of the Gwadar Port, and its pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.
"We are happy that the first wheat shipment for Afghanistan has been sent to the country's people via the Iranian port", Rouhani said, according to IRNA news agency. The $340 million project is also expected to make Chabahar, Iran's closest sea link to the Indian Ocean, a rival to Gwadar Port, some 80 km away (50 miles) across the border in Pakistan, which Pakistan has been building with Chinese investment.
The port will increase the capacity of loading and unloading of ships as well as the employment rate in the province, according to an official with the Sistan and Baluchestan Ports and Maritime Organisation.
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.