The countries signed the agreement in Tehran in May 2016 to establish a strategic transit and transport route connecting the trio, with Chabahar as the focal point. India then inaugurated a headquarters called India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ) at the port to help it commit to its part in the accord.
On Monday, India’s Shipping Ministry said in a statement that commercial operations had begun at the IPGCFZ with the arrival of a Cyprus registered bulk carrier bearing 72,458 million tons of corn at the port on December 30, The Times of India reported.
The vessel MV Macheras discharged the cargo, which had been imported from Brazil, the statement added.
“This is the first time India will be operating a port outside its territories,” the Ministry pointed out.
“India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease,” the paper added.
The port provides the easiest access to the high seas to landlocked Central Asian countries of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, and Kazakhstan.
“This step marks the beginning of a long journey. India has written a history with its engagement in Chabahar and is now leading the regional cooperation and joint efforts to support landlocked Afghanistan,” the Ministry further said.
India’s operations at Chabahar are also aimed at cutting its crude oil and urea transportation costs by around 30 percent.
India relies heavily on Iranian oil imports. It has secured a waiver from the United States illegal sanctions preventing countries from purchasing Iranian crude.
Also on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in New Delhi at the head of a large economic delegation for a three-day visit, assuring, “Iran has always been and will continue to be a trustworthy provider of oil to India.”