Chabahar Port: Given Indian Interest. The Motivational Story Media
Chabahar Port: Given Indian Interest
Recently, we read that Iran has launched the track laying programme for the 628 km long rail link between Chabahar and Zahidan but the concern is that India was being excluded from the project. But Iran has since clarified that it is not the case and India could join the project at a later stage, which is a good sign for Ircon International Limited (IRCON) which has been associated with the project.
Why Chabahar port is important?
Before independence, India had direct access to Central Asia through Afghanistan and Tajikistan. But after independence and the birth of a new nation, Pakistan came in the way of creating a direct connection with Central Asia. Now in order to connect with Central Asia, India would have to do so via the land of Pakistan. But this has not been feasible due to the strained relations between India and Pakistan, which have until now Fought four wars.
Hence India has been trying to look at an alternative route to Central Asia. This was partly solved in the form of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which is a water + land + rail route to Central Asia, Russia and Europe via the Arabian Sea, Iran and the Caspian Sea bypassing Pakistan. From Chabahar, India can connect with the border town of Zaranj in Afghanistan and then, through the Zaranj-Delram highway constructed by India, it can connect further north to Central Asia and beyond. So besides the INSTC, the Chabahar Port can help India in getting access to Central Asia and Europe.
Trading with Afghanistan :
The INSTC allowed India to trade with the outside world via Iran, but India could not do so with Afghanistan in spite of being a very close neighbour. This was because Afghanistan was not a part of this INSTC project causing a major disadvantage to India. In May 2016, a trilateral agreement was signed between India, Iran and Afghanistan for developing a transport and trade passageway between the three countries via the Chabahar Port and bypassing Pakistan. This has been of great advantage to India in getting a direct connection with Afghanistan. In fact, trading has already started between Afghanistan and India through this route.
Strategic Importance :
The Chabahar port is of great strategic importance due to its location in the Gulf of Oman and enables Iran to have direct entree to the Indian Ocean. The Chabahar port is also quite near the Gwadar Port of Pakistan being developed by China. Thus, by getting involved in developing the Chabahar Port, India will have a presence in a strategically important region of the world. It can closely monitor Cinese developments in the Gwadar Port.
After escalation of US-Iran tension and attack on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the Indian Navy has started escorting Indian crude oil carriers transiting through this Strait. Therefore, it is imperative for India to further strengthen its maritime power in this region for tackling any kind of future conflict and threats arising here.
Although India’s development of the Chabahar Port until now has been exempted from US sanctions, the possibility of its withdrawal in the near future can be a major hindrance for India. The likelihood of Afghan Taliban rising to power and their recognition by major powers like Russia, the US and the EU may give Pakistan more leverage in the region causing a major disadvantage for India. Despite these shortcomings, India should move ahead to fully develop this port at a fast pace and try to build a smooth transit route to Afghanistan and beyond.
In fact, the development of this port and a transit route to Central Asia, Russia and Europe via Iran and Afghanistan is a major benefit for all who are involved and hence a win-win situation for all. For both Iran and India, this port will reduce dependency on the Suez Canal and reduce transportation time. For landlocked Afghanistan it will be a gateway to the outside world by getting direct access to waterways for transportation and trading.