SearchChabahar Port in Iran: Challenge for India to upgrade it on war Footing | New Delhi Times – India's leading opinion based newspaper

Chabahar Port in Iran: Challenge for India to upgrade it on war Footing | New Delhi Times – India's leading opinion based newspaper... 06/06/2015 Economy

Keywords:#Afghan, #Afghanistan, #Africa, #Asia, #Baluchestan, #Bam, #Bandar_Abbas, #Belgium, #Central_Asia, #Chabahar, #Chabahar_Port, #Chabahar_port, #China, #Chinese, #Delhi, #Europe, #Gwadar, #Hormuz, #India, #Indian_Ocean, #Iran, #Iranian, #Kabul, #Karachi, #Latin_America, #Maritime, #Muslim, #NAM, #Netherlands, #New_Delhi,, #North-South, #Oman, #Pakistan, #Pakistani, #Pashtun, #Russia, #Silk_Road, #Silk_Route, #Sistan, #Soviet, #Sunni, #Tehran, #Times, #Turkmenistan, #US, #USD

The Chabahar Port project is in the interest of everyone, especially Afghanistan, whose only access at the moment is through Karachi Port hence subject to the vicissitudes of Afghan-Pakistan relations. Fully developed port would lower landlocked Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistani ports for assured access to the sea. As Pakistan does not allow transit facility from India to Afghanistan, access to the port and its surrounding free trade zone is more crucial for the land-locked country. US being most earnest about stabilising Afghanistan, it cannot but welcome Chabahar, as it opens a shorter route from Iran to Afghanistan’s Pashtun provinces and beyond.

بندر چابهار آسان‌ترین و راهبردی‌ترین راه دسترسی به آبهای آزاد برای ۶ کشور محاط در خشکی در آسیای میانه است.

* * * Along with Bandar Abbas, Chabahar is the Iranian entrepot on the North-South corridor and it plans to use Chabahar for transhipment to Afghanistan and Central Asia, while keeping the port of Bandar Abbas as a major hub mainly for trade with Russia and Europe. The Chabahar port project also provides an opportunity to end Iran’s US-sponsored economic isolation and benefit from the resurgent Indian economy. Chabahar’s commercial advantages are reinforced by its strategic location. Iran looks for Indian investments in the Chabahar Free Trade and Industrial Zone — an area of 140 sq km carved into nine functional zones. India’s participation in upgrading the Chabahar port has deep geopolitical resonance as it reinforces New Delhi’s strategic ties with Tehran and Kabul. It has great strategic utility for India which will get sea-land access route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.
On the eve of the previous Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a tripartite agreement providing Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential transit and tariff reductions at Chabahar. Moreover China’s taking over Pakistan’s Gwadar port had India worried and imparted urgency to opening alternative route to Afghanistan. The strategic location of Gwadar, 180 km from the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, offers Pakistan the chance to take control over the world energy jugular and interdiction of Indian tankers but Chabahar, being closer to Straits of Hormuz by another 76 km, neutralises that advantage. As both the ports compete on the doorstep of Gulf shipping lanes, strategists visualise another race between the Asian giants to project influence beyond their shores by seeking resources from Africa to Latin America to even Afghanistan to feed their fast growing economies. This heralds the inevitable wider competitive dynamics between China and India. Chabahar Port holds the promise of Indian access to the oil and gas resources in Iran and the Central Asian states.
In 2014, Indian government sanctioned an initial amount USD 85 million — a small amount but a huge symbolic gesture— for port development through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to convert the berths into a container terminal and a multi-purpose cargo terminal with India leasing two berths for 10 years. The port, to be used to ship crude oil and urea, will save India transportation costs. According to Afghan-Soviet studies in 1960s, the region has iron ore reserves of around 1.8 billion tonnes containing around 62% ferrous iron valued at $3 Trillion at that time.
India and Iran propose a gas pipeline along the bed of the Arabian Sea, to replace the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Both the countries plan delivery of natural gas produced in Turkmenistan with Indian assistance to north Iran while natural gas from deposits in southern Iran will be sent to Indian consumers. Proposed establishment of a 12-lakh-tonne urea plant in Chabahar will combine Indian technology with Iran’s exceptionally cheap natural gas. Chabahar container terminal project, when completed, will ensure containers speeding on Chabahar-Faraj-Bam railway to Bam on Afghan border and further onward along the 200-km India-built Zaranj-Delaram road that hooks up with Afghanistan’s garland highway, linking all major cities.
Countries not well equipped to develop large infrastructure projects always seek help of a foreign partner. Pakistan taking Chinese assistance for Gwadar, Srilanka seeking Chinese help for its port, Oman seeking the help of the Netherlands and Belgium for the Sohar and Salalah ports and Indian assistance in developing Chabahar port follow the same logic. However, the impediments to development of Chabahar port are too many. First of all Iran has been reluctant to move fast probably due to anxieties over the troubled Sistan-Baluchestan region where a Sunni Muslim insurgency is brewing. Shi’ite Muslim Iran may be concerned with the external influences of a thriving port percolating to the troubled region. Secondly India must fast-track the construction on a war footing eliminating project delay.
This is a volatile region and things change too fast. India must race against time and complete the project before ground realities change for the worse. Thirdly criss-crossing of proposed Silk Road— China’s dream project— on Iranian soil need may pose some problems for India. Chabahar port provides a window of opportunity for India to bolster its trade with all Central Asia neighbours, Europe and Russia. Since Russia has for decades been eyeing for an opening to blue warm water port in Indian Ocean, opportunities for trade are galore. What China has been trying to achieve through Silk Route and Twenty First century Maritime Silk Route, India can achieve just that and much more through Chabahar. There is much more for India in this small port than what it outwardly appears. India should have the vision to appreciate this and act fast.

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