Context:

Afghanistan has begun exporting goods to India for the first time through Iran’s Chabahar port, bypassing the Pakistan route. Twenty-three trucks with dried fruits, textiles, carpets and mineral products were dispatched from the western Afghan city of Zaranj to Chabahar in Iran.

Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth. The Iranian port provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped developed this route to allow both countries to engage in trade bypassing Pakistan.

Iran is due to handover the strategic Chabahar port to Indian company soon.

Earlier India and  Iran had signed an  agreement. Under  this agreement,  India is to equip and  operate two  berths in  ChabaharPort.

Phase-I with capital  investment of  $85.21 million and  annual revenue  expenditure of  $22.95 million on  a 10-year lease.

 The Chabahar port is located in Gulf of Oman (in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran) and is easily accessible fromIndia‘s western coast.

Importance of Chahbahar Port for India

India took operational control of a portion of the Iranian port late last year for 18 months and plans to send cargo ships from its ports of Mumbai, Kandla and Mundra every two weeks.

The United States also last year waived off certain anti-Iran sanctions (CAATSA Act) to allow the development of Chabahar to support efforts aimed at stabilising Afghanistan.

The waiver has enabled India, Iran and Afghanistan to continue their work to establish a new transit and transport corridor linking the three countries to help improve Afghan economy and allow the war-ravaged country to import food and medicines, bypassing Pakistan.

The significance of the Chabahar:

  1. It is easily accessible from India‘s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan‟s Gwadar Port located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar.
  2. It is being considered as a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.
  3. From Chabahar, the existing Iranian road network can link up to Zaranj in Afghanistan. The Zaranj- Delaram road constructed by India can give access to Afghanistan‟s Garland highway.
  4. India‘s trade relations and economic relations with Central Asian region in future depends a lot on the  utilisation of Chabahar Port because it provides direct  sea-land route access for India to reach Central  Asia via Iran. 
  5. When linked with the International North South Transport Corridor, it would touch South Asia at one end and Europe at another.
  6. Strategically, the Chabahar deal would also help in countering the Chinese presence in Arabian Sea.
  7. With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  8. Not only that, in an attempt to circumvent the banking problems caused by western sanctions on Iran, India will for the first time allow investment in Iran. This is a special arrangement, which is only allowed for Nepal and Bhutan.
  9. The port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This will in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
  10. From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Other steps for connectivity to Central Asia:

  • TAPI gas Pipeline (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India)
  • Ashgabat Agreement – aims at the establishment of an International Transport and Transit Corridor between Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • International North South Transport Corridor
  • Iran-Pakistan–India (IPI)
  • India is successfully operating air-corridor with Afghanistan for several months now and is open to similar ventures with Central Asian countries as well to not only bypass Pakistan but for faster transportation of goods. In her speech at Samarkand, Indian Foreign Minister suggested ‘Dialogue on Air Corridors’ as well.
  • India has proposed the setting up of the ‘India-Central Asia Development Group’ to take forward this development partnership between India and Central Asian countries.

Q] How Chabahar is going to change the geopolitics and geo-economics of the region. Discuss taking into account interests of India.

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