Source: The post is based on the article “Reinvigorating the Chabahar port” published in The Hindu on 24th August 2022.
Syllabus: GS 2 – International relations.
Relevance: Chabahar port and concerns associated with it
News: The Union government has increased its developing Iran’s Chabahar port to connect to Afghanistan and Central Asia for trade.
The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways Mr. Sonowal visited Iran recently.
This visit highlights the importance of Chabahar as a gateway for Indian trade with Europe, Russia and CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries.
What is India’s strategic vision for Chabahar?
The first agreement for Chabahar was signed by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003. The plan had a three-fold objective:
- To build India’s first offshore port and to project Indian infrastructure skills in the Gulf;
- To build a long term, sustainable sea trade route, as an alternative to Pakistan;
- and to find an alternative land route to Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government constructed the Zaranj -Delaram Highway in Afghanistan’s South. The Highway would help connect the trade route from the border of Iran to the main trade routes to Herat and Kabul.
With China’s Belt and Road Initiative making inroads in the region, the government hopes to provide Central Asia with an alternate route to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Iran for future trade.
What is the India’s future vision?
India’s vision to make the Shahid Beheshti port a “a transit hub” and link it to the International North South Trade Corridor (INSTC) that also connects to Russia and Europe.
What hurdles India is facing in completion of the Chabahar project?
The development of the Shahid Beheshti terminal in Chabahar as well as surrounding infrastructure has hit geopolitical road-block due to the following reasons:
- The US sanctions against the Iran has been a setback for the Chabahar port. The US walked out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and new sanctions were imposed on Iran. This caused India to stop its all oil imports from Iran which led in a strain in ties between the two nations.
- It became difficult to source equipment for the port construction from infrastructure companies and to engage shipping and insurance companies for trade through Chabahar because they have fear of secondary sanctions.
- The Indian government also ended ties with Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021. It put an end to the humanitarian aid of wheat and pulses that was being sent to Kabul via Chabahar.
- Recently when India restarted wheat aid to Afghanistan this year, it negotiated with Pakistan to use the land route.