Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has inaugurated Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman on Sunday.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has inaugurated Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman on Sunday. The strategically key port is a big boost for India as the route connects Iran, India and Afghanistan. From now on, India won’t have to rely on Pakistan to get access to those two countries. Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan represented India at the inauguration ceremony of the Phase 1 of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar, according to The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said. The ceremony was also attended by ambassadors and senior officials of the region. The port is located in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran’s southern coast. It is easily accessible from India’s western coast. It has been learnt that India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level trilateral meeting on Chabahar also took place yesterday on the sidelines of the event where the three countries resolved to work towards integrated development of connectivity infrastructure including ports, road and rail networks to open up greater opportunities for regional market access and integration of their economies.
Bypassing Pakistan: The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi. This the port will also help India bypass Pakistan. India has been closely working with Afghanistan and Iran to create alternative, reliable access routes for trade.
Counter to China: The port is easily accessible and seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar. China is aggressively pursuing its own Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project —many in Delhi view this as one of India’s projects to counter Xi’s BRI.
India-Iran-Afghanistan partnership: The route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan reflects growing convergence of interests among the three countries. Three countries assessed the progress in the development of the port and reiterated their commitment to complete and operationalise it at the earliest, which they felt would provide alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan to regional and global markets.
The geographical importance of Chabahar port: Interestingly, this strategic-economic cooperation between India and Iran took place in the backdrop of both countries being against the Taliban regime, and both being among the key backers of the Ahmed Shah Massoud-led Northern Alliance. To add to that, India’s ambition of reaching Afghanistan — since Pakistan had blocked land transit and access through its territory — fuelled the need for developing the strategic project of Chabahar.
Huge potential of Chabahar port: To make it a commercially and strategically viable option, Indian policymakers will have to use the Chabahar project as a lynchpin to integrate it with its larger connectivity project — the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC). The INSTC, initiated in 2000 by Russia, India and Iran, is a multi-modal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and onward to northern Europe via St Petersburg in Russia.
Ahead of the inauguration of the port, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday met her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran during which implementation of the Chabahar port project was discussed among other issues. Swaraj made a stopover at Tehran on her return from Russian city of Sochi where she had attended the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Over a month ago, India had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port, marking opening of the new transit route.