Chabahar port importance for India – India Iran Relations

Chabahar port importance for India – India Iran Relations

After a long interval of 15 years, an indian Prime Minister is on a visit to Iran. The aim of this visit is to develop strong strategic relationships with iran.

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Prime minster of india is on visit to iran when international sanctions have been lifted. Therefore, it is now easy to do trade and business with iran.

Development of chabahar port is one of the main projects in which india is deeply interested. India wants to invest 500 million dollar in chabahar project

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Chahabar port is crucial for our strategic and economic interest in the the region.It will have far-reaching implications for India and our access to Central Asia.

International North- South Transport Corridor (INSTC) connects South and Central Asia to North Europe via Russia.

Iran is a partner nation in INSTC and Iran’s efforts to enhance utility of Chabahar Port by developing linkages that will connect it with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics most economically should also be seen in this context.

Chabahar port importance for India - India Iran Relations

Chabahar is situated on the Makran coast in the Gulf of Oman

Chabahar is strategically important to India due to following reasons:

  • Gateway to central Asia – Chabahar port in Iran would be India’s gateway to landlocked Afghanistan and other central Asian countries, overcoming geographical constraint imposed by Pakistan.
  • Regional connectivity – North- South corridor and Ashgabat agreement has Iranian ports as focal point. Chabahar port will make it easy for India to connect with these infrastructure projects.
  • Influence in Indian Ocean region – Iran being in IOR, is important for the success of Project Mausam, Sagarmala and to counter influence of China in Pakistan and PoK.
  • Joint venture – In Iran for Oil exploration or Fertilizer production increases the importance of the port.

Development of Chabahar port has not been steadfast due to the following reasons:

  • Sanction on Iran – In last couple of years Iran was under sanction led by U.S. India showed restraint in investment in Iran to prevent undermining its nuclear deal with U.S and also relation with the west.
  • Political will – Different ministries and agencies in India did not work in unison to pursue declared strategic objectives towards Iran.
  • Less enthusiasm by Iran – Iran was reluctant to allow an Indian presence at Chabahar due to the opposition by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. Showing less enthusiasm in Chabahar, Iran plans to invest $4 billion to build a refinery in Gwadar.
  • Lack of funds – Until last year India had huge CAD, inflation, problem of draught, pressure of domestic infrastructure projects like dedicated freight corridor and irrigation projects etc. Fund with the government is limited.

Strategic Importance  Chabahar Vs Gwadar | India Vs China

  • Chabahar is located on Arabian Sea’s Makran coast in Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
  • Pakistan’s Gwadar port also is situated on Pakistan’s Baluchistan province’s Makran coast.
  • Both offer direct access to Indian Ocean.
  • Both China and India are seeking closer relations with Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  • For India, Chabahar is nearest port to Indian Ocean providing direct access to Middle East and Central Asia.
  • For China, Gwadar with a substantial head start over Chabahar could be a terminus for pipelines in its oil and gas supply chain from Africa and Middle East, allowing it to bypass congested pinch point that is Strait of Hormuz.
  • Gwadar also brightens prospects for a pipeline corridor bringing oil and gas to China from Middle East as an alternate route to transport oil around Indian Subcontinent and through increasingly disputed territorial waters of South China Sea.
  • Route will be cheaper, less vulnerable and give Beijing greater freedom of action to pursue its claims to sovereignty over South China Sea.
  • Direct access to India Ocean would give China a strategic post of observation and a key location for its navy and a listening post from where Chinese may exert surveillance on hyper-strategic sea links as well as military activities of Indian and American navies in region, and second, dual-use civilian-military facilities providing a base for Chinese ships and submarines.
  • For India, Gwadar port being so close to Straits of Hormuz has implications for India as it would enable Pakistan to exercise control over energy routes along with challenging Indian assertion over Indian Ocean.
  • Iran is more stable than Pakistan, it has better relations with Afghanistan and Central Asian states, Chabahar route goes through relatively stable parts of Afghanistan and Iran already has good relations with everybody along route leading north (including local “warlords”) into Tajikistan.
  • Significantly, it is in Tajikistan where Iran has already been financing several transport projects including Anzob tunnel.
  • Luckily for Iranians, U.S. constructed a bridge over Amu Darya that fits in nicely with Chabahar to Khojent route.
  • Problem with Gwadar is that while port has been built -supporting infrastructure of railroad link, industrial capacity, and civic structures at Gwadar is almost non-existent and proposed Gwadar route also goes through more problematic areas of Afghanistan.
  • Countries of Central Asia will likely benefit from both Chabahar and Gwadar.

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