The nation anticipates that it will become a key transit route to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asia and enable more Indian commodities to be exported to Russia.
The expansion, with $235 investment from India, has boosted the port’s capacity from 2.5 million to 8.5 million tons a year. India has committed $500 million to build two berths at the port and $1.6 billion for a 650-kilometer (400-mile) rail link that will run from Chabahar to Zahedan and into Afghanistan. In October, India sent a first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar.
The port is seen as a rival to Pakistan’s Gwadar port, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, which is being developed with Chinese help as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Speaking at the event, however, Iran's president said regional rivalries should give way for “more engagement and unity” in the region. “We should go after positive competition…We welcome other ports in the region, we welcome Gwadar’s development,” he said.
Alongside the ceremony, Indian, Afghan and Iranian officials held a trilateral meeting to discuss implementing the trade and transit agreement announced in May 2016. The ministers decided to finalize protocols related to transport and transit, ports, customs procedures and consular affairs.