Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: India and its Neighborhood- Relations; Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests; Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests.
- Chabahar port is located in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province.
- It is located on the Makran coast on the Persian Gulf occupied a unique location as ships, tankers etc. avoided the “chicken neck” on the Gulf of Hormuz.
- It is the only deep-sea port located on the edge of the Indian Ocean in Iran with direct ocean access.
Timelines of Chabhar plan:
- First agreement for Chabahar was signed by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 with three fold objectives.
- Zaranj -Delaram Highway constructed during Manmohan Singh’s government in 2009 connecting the trade route from the border of Iran to Herat and Kabul in Afghanistan’s South.
- PM Modi’s visit in 2016 to Tehran led to signing of agreement between India and Afghanistan to develop Chabahar port, as well as the trilateral agreement for trade through Chabahar.
- Recently on the occasion of “Chabahar Day” function, India clarified it’s vision of making 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.
Main Objectives of Chabhar plan:
- Build India’s first offshore port.
- Project Indian infrastructure prowess in the Gulf.
- Circumvent trade through hostile neighbor Pakistan by building long term, sustainable sea trade route.
- Find an alternative land route to Afghanistan after the defeat of the Taliban in 2001.
- Provide Central Asia with an alternate route to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Significance of Chabhar port/plan:
- It will become Gateway for Indian trade with Europe, Russia and CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries.
- Port has the potential to develop into one of the most important commercial hubs in the region due to its geographic proximity to countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indiaas well as its status as a key transit center on the burgeoning International North-South Transport Corridor.
- Chabahar has simple trade procedures with other countries,as it is one of the few places in Iran that is exempt from U.S. sanctions.
- It will help in India’s “Look West” policy, where India wants to improve its engagement with west Asian countries as well as with Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian Republics( CARs),
- Chabahar opens directly into the Indian Ocean, and is a deep water port and it is a mere 1000 km from Kandla on the Gujarat coast. So, it will help Indian ships to bypass Dubai and reach Chabahar directly.
- India and Iran has shared objective of stability and security of Afghanistan as well as Iran is important to India for its energy requirements. So, Chabhar plan will help Indian firms in exploration and development of new oil fields and improve strategic partnership between both countries.
- It will help India to address security concerns vis a vis China and Pakistan as China is building Gwadar port in Pakistan.
Road Blocks in India’s Chabhar plan:
- Geopolitical road-block: Specially Iran’s relationship with western countries, particularly United States.
- Increased in western sanctions against Iran put the Chabahar project on the back-burner.
- Trump administration put paid to India’s plans by walked out of the JCPOA in 2018 hampering India’s plan by slapping new sanctions on dealing with Iran. Hence, Modi government “zeroing out” all its oil imports from Iran, causing a strain in ties.
- Even special “carve-out” on sanctions for Chabahar, by U.S. was not sufficient as it has been difficult to source equipment for the port construction from infrastructure companies that continue to fear secondary sanctions, as well as to engage shipping and insurance companies for trade through Chabahar.
- Hostile Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 put an end to the humanitarian aid of wheat and pulses that, was being sent to Kabul via Chabahar. When India restarted wheat aid to Afghanistan this year, it negotiated with Pakistan to use the land route instead.
Conclusion and Way forward: Since, there are so many competing interests over Chabahar India require sustained and nuanced diplomacy to sustain the momentum.
Sources: The Hindu, Times of India, The Diplomat, United Service Institution of India
- The Hindu: https://bit.ly/3D9vuxZ ; Author Name: Suhasini Haidar
- Times of India: https://bit.ly/2o604kw
- the diplomat: https://bit.ly/3d6TA1z
- United Service Institution of India: https://bit.ly/3Bn7nth