Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had formally inaugurated the Chah Bahar Port providing transit trade facilities to the landlocked countries of Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan. The cost of the Chah Bahar Port is estimated at one billion US dollar with 232 million US dollar share from India.
India had committed to invest half a billion US dollar on construction and expansion of the Chah Bahar Port. The India had dispatched two ship loads of wheat to Afghanistan and it reached its final destination with a message to all that India had managed to open trade route with the landlocked countries using the port facilities of Chah Bahar on the Mekran Coast.
On the part of Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani announced that his country was no more dependent on Karachi Port for transit trade with the world countries. Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, represented Pakistan in the inaugural ceremony as representatives of 16 countries had participated in the function.
Iran had been providing transit trade facilities to the landlocked countries of Central Asia and Afghanistan from Bandar Abbas, another major port on the extreme end of Mekran Coast. Since the distance was double and so that cost of transportation was also doubled, the Indians encouraged the Iranians to build the Chah Bahar Port with the background of deliberately delaying the construction and completion of Gwadar Port in decades.
When the Asian Development Bank sent its proposal to build railroad link between Gwadar and Ashkhabad (Turkmenistan) to the backburner following failure of talks between the US and Taliban on Turkmen Gas Pipeline, the Indians approached the Iranians to build the Chah Bahar Port as a substitute to Gwadar. The Asian Development Bank proposed to invest 11.5 billion US dollars on railroad link between Gwadar and Ashkhabad.
It was General Pervez Musharraf who ordered construction of Gwadar Port in 2002 and also building the Mekran Coastal Highway linking Karachi with Jiwani, the last port township of Pakistani Balochistan.
It is unfortunate that Gwadar Port is being built with a snail pace. In the last 15 years, the Government added three cranes only. The cranes were installed a few months ago and after 15 long years. There is no basic infrastructure, water, electricity, roads and basic port facilities.
The Federal Government had granted the contract to the Chinese company some two years back for building five more berths. The Company failed to start work on building five more berths, building power house and the Gwadar International Airport, rail connection with the landlocked Central Asian countries and Afghanistan, or linking Gwadar Port with the Pakistani rail system. However, the Iranians are working hard to connect Chah Bahar with Zahedan or the international rail link.
Presumably, Pakistan is waiting for Iran completing the rail link between Chah Bahar and Zahedan and the Gwadar Port will be an additional beneficiary through this connectivity. Railway Minister Saad Rafiq flatly refused to a suggestion to upgrade Quetta-Zahedan Rail and connect Gwadar with Nokkundi saying it involves billions of dollar investment.
In any case, the Iranians had won the race and completed the Chah Bahar Port and made it operational in all respect and stage is set to earn revenue of 10 billion US dollar a year as fee for transit trade or extending necessary services to the companies using the port facilities. The Chah Bahar Port had already been catering the basic need of Iranian Balochistan and also major parts of Central Iran and the local traders were using this facility in trading with the neighbouring countries for a decade or more.
As a result of the Chah Bahar Port, the Iranian economy is flourishing in major parts of Iranian Balochistan and also in parts of Central Iran. The areas of Central Iran closer to Mekran Coast are using Chah Bahar as the main port of import and export or transit trade where brisk economic activities are visible.
Chah Bahar Port on Mekran Coast had already attracted an investment of 50 billion US dollars from the developed countries of Asia and Europe. During the past couple of years population of Chah Bahar had doubled with vast business and employment opportunities.