The United States has welcomed India’s plan to expand Iran’s Chabahar port as a project that a top military official says will help the long-term stability of Afghanistan.
US Army General John Nicholson, who commands US combat operations in Afghanistan, told the US Senate in a hearing that he welcomed the Chabahar project because it would offer Afghanistan a viable and economic alternative to shipping all its goods via Pakistan.
“Iranian-Indian-Afghan cooperation over the Chabahar port presents great economic potential. With over $2 billion development aid executed since 2002, and another $1 billion pledged in 2016, India’s significant investments in Afghan infrastructure, engineering, training, and humanitarian issues will help develop Afghan human capital and long-term stability,” General Nicholson told a US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on February 9, as reported by Asia Times news website.
As per a basic agreement signed between Iran and India last May, India is to equip and operate two berths in Phase I of Chabahar project with a capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a ten year lease.
Besides the bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port, for which India will invest $500 million, a trilateral agreement to create a transport and transit corridor that would start from Chabahar and lead to Afghanistan has also been signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran.
Last week, India said that it expected to complete the first phase of the construction of Chabahar port in 2018.
“We can complete the work on the first phase of the project in 2018… The funds are likely to be released shortly. Tenders are out for the project,” India’s Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari was quoted as saying by the media.