India has formally taken over operations of Iran's strategic Chabahar Port, a move that could have significant geopolitical ramifications in the region.
The port on the Indian Ocean, inaugurated last year, is being built largely by India and is expected to provide a key supply route for Afghanistan while allowing India to bypass rival Pakistan to trade with Central Asia.
Representatives from India, Iran, and Afghanistan met in Tehran to formally hand over control to state-owned India Ports Global Limited (IPGL).
An Iranian official was quoted by the official IRNA news agency as saying that IPGL had been granted the lease for “a temporary period of 18 months and a ten-year period afterwards.”
The official added that IPGL’s management would include “loading and unloading, supplying equipment and marketing.”
The U.S. State Department in November exempted the Chabahar Port project from sanctions in recognition of its importance to landlocked Afghanistan.
The effort to build up Afghanistan's economy also is aimed at reducing Kabul's dependence on foreign aid and putting a major dent in the illicit opium trade that has been a major source of revenue for the Taliban insurgency.
New Delhi has poured $2 billion into development in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban's government.