The Islamic Republic has dealt with renewed economic and political pressure from the US since President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the 2015 Iran deal and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. While European companies have been forced to cut cooperation with Iran, it is turning to India and Afghanistan.
Iran has invested about $1 billion in the isolated port of Shahid Beheshti in Chabahar, located in a volatile region on the Indian Ocean close to the Pakistani border, AFP reports, citing official sources. It has drawn the attention of the Iranian government as it remains the only port that received exemptions from the US sanctions, re-imposed last year.
The port is set to become a part of a trade route named the North-South Corridor that would connect Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. Roads and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami has pleaded to continue developing the port, rail network, road network, and airport so that Iran may implement the ambitious plan.
Tehran aspires to maintain a flow of goods through it amid growing international pressure and develop Chabahar into a pivotal hub for delivering Afghani goods worldwide, especially to India, and breaking Kabul’s dependence on the route through Pakistan.
READ MORE: India Receives First Shipment From Afghanistan via Iran’s Chabahar Port
However, although the port’s infrastructure became operational in December 2017 even before the US re-imposed its sanctions, the project has yet to pick up. Despite the planned annual capacity of 8.5 million tonnes, ships only handled 2.1 million tonnes there last year. However, the first 11 months of the past Iranian year (which started on March 21 in 2018) showed positive dynamics with a 56 percent increase in cargo operations and a 25 percent increase in the number of ships in the port.
Besides the US ban on financial transactions with the Islamic Republic, impacting payments, the port has also had to deal with security issues because Chabahar is located in the volatile province of Sistan and Baluchistan, where militant jihadists are active.