With Iran being the main bridge for connecting India with Central Asia and Afghanistan, connectivity, besides energy security, is expected to top the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s coming visit to Tehran.
There are four main national and international road networks that could help in enhancing trade and economic ties between the two sides: Chabahar-Bandar Abbas, Chabahar-Iranshahr-Kerman, Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Mashahd and Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Milak (on the Afghanistan border).
So far, India has built a 200-km-long road from Nimroz province in Afghanistan to Chabahar, thus fulfilling its end of the trilateral arrangement with Iran and Afghanistan. The Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Dilaram route is in progress with help from the Border Road Organisation which has constructed 213 km of this.
Regional connectivity has been a focus area for India at different international foras. According to MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup, “At the first round of India-Iran-Afghanistan trilateral consultations on April 27, the delegations had a fruitful exchange of views on mutual cooperation in strengthening economic and commercial cooperation among the three countries including, by promoting regional connectivity such as through Chabahar.”
“In this regard they also agreed to explore avenues for attracting investment from other countries in the region and beyond,” Swarup added.
The Chabahar port is located in Sistan-Balochistan Province on Iran’s southeastern coast and is of great strategic utility for India which will get sea-land access route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
When Modi meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, besides the Chahabar Port, talks on the International North-South Transport Corridor project linking India with Central Asia and other countries too will be discussed.
India plans to use the North-South corridor for shipping goods to Central Asia through Nhava Sheva (Mumbai), Bandar Abbas (Iran), Tehran, Bandar Anzali (Iran) and Astrakhan (Russia).
According to Gholamreza Ansari, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to India, “India can benefit from North-South Corridor, as its goods can reach the Central Asian and European countries sooner. India is an important country. And the Persian Gulf as well as the Sea of Oman regions are of great importance. We both need to strengthen our shipping lines as theses waterways are important to both sides for our economic development.”