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The Chabahar Port and India's Interests

Iranian government recently decided to proceed with the construction of the rail-line from Chabahar port to Zahedan without the aid of India.

By shiwangi64
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The Chabahar Port and India's Interests

The recent development around the Chabahar Port has brought India-Iran ties to the centre. The Iranian government recently decided to proceed with the construction of the rail-line from Chabahar port to Zahedan without the aid of India. This decision might have a huge impact on India.

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Where is Chabahar Port?

  • The Chabahar Port is located on the Gulf of Oman. It is the only oceanic port of Iran. It has 2 separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti.
  • It is 72 km away from the Gwadar Port in Pakistan developed by China.
  • It is also close to Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc. That is why, it is also called the “Golden Gate”, to these land-locked countries.

Why is Chabahar Port important for India?

  • China has been establishing its power in the Arabian Sea through the Gwadar Port in Pakistan. Therefore, India’s involvement in Chabahar Port could counter China’s presence.
  • The port would have been helpful for India to transport goods to Afghanistan via sea-land route. This is because Pakistan does not allow the transport of goods to Afghanistan.
  • Also, the project could give momentum to the International North-South Transport Corridor signed between India, Iran and Russia. The INSTC, signed in 2002, was meant for better connectivity between major cities like Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Astrakhan etc. Overall the Chabahar route and the INSTC could boost the trade from India to Eurasia by almost US$ 170 billion.

Timeline of Events

  • 2003: The New Delhi Declaration was signed between Iran and India. It focused on building transport corridors and deepening energy cooperation.
  • 2016: PM Modi visited Tehran to sign a trilateral pact between India, Iran and Afghanistan on the Chabahar Port Project. It was a trilateral transit agreement that allowed for Indian goods to reach Afghanistan through Iran. Also, an MoU was signed between Indian Railways Construction Ltd. (IRCON) and Iranian Rail Ministry. Under this agreement, IRCON was supposed to conduct all the work on the rail line and finance the entire project.
  • 2017: The trilateral transit trade route was implemented for the first time when a shipment of wheat was sent from India to Afghanistan.
  • 2020: As the latest reports suggest, the Iranian government has decided to go ahead with the construction of the railway line. It will be funded by Iranian National Development Fund.

Present Status

According to Iran's latest statement no deal has been inked between India and Iran on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway. Further, Farhad Montaser, one of the deputies to Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization, said that agreement was signed mainly around India's investment in the port's machinery and equipment. Further, he stated that it had nothing to do with the US Sanctions.

But there is a reason to worry regarding the Comprehensive Plan for Cooperation between Iran and China. It is a 25-year strategic partnership between Iran and China in which China is expected to invest in manufacturing, infrastructure, transport and energy projects in Iran. In return, Iran will provide a continuous supply of oil and gas to China.

Overall, this development needs to be closely monitored by India. Because this could not only influence India-Iran ties but could also affect India’s strategic position in the region.   

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Written By Shiwangi, She is doing her Masters in Mass Communication from GGS IP University, New Delhi.

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