India conveyed its plan to Iran towards developing Chah-bahar port there that would ensure connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia even though the recent Iran-P5+1 interim deal has not reached a decisive point.
The development of Chah-bahar port — around 80 km away from Pakistan’s Gwadar port– has been affected by the uncertainty of sanctions on Iran and Finance minister P Chidambaram who has conditioned his permission on the port, by demanding a certain percentage return on investment from the port development project.
About Chah-bahar Port:
- Afghanistan and Iran inked an agreement which will permit Afghanistan to use Iran’s south-eastern Chabahar port for shipments and trade.
Why Afghanistan needs to use port of Iran?
- Afghanistan is a landlocked country thus it needs to use Iran’s port for its shipments and trade.
Strategic location of Chabahar port
- Chah Bahar is Iran’s southernmost city.
- Iran’s closest and best access point to the Indian Ocean.
- It is the only Iranian port with direct access to ocean.
- For this reason, Chabahar is the focal point of Iran for development of the east of the country through expansion and enhancement of transit routes among countries situated in the northern part of the Indian Ocean and Central Asia.
- Chabahar is just 72 km west of Pakistans Gwadar Port, being built with Chinese help.
What is the India’s role in this whole gambit?
- A plan being finalized by India to construct a 900-km railway line that will connect Chabahar port in Iran, being built with Indian assistance, to the mineral-rich Hajigak region of Afghanistan.
- When finished, this line will throw up both geo-political and economic opportunities for India.
Why the deal b/w Iran and Afghanistan will be a win-win situation for Afghanistan, India, Iran and also for US?
- Access to the sea.
- Decrease in dependence on Pakistan.
- This will resolve trade related transit issues of Afghan traders and thus promote trade and commerce.
- Increase in Indian influence in Afghanistan.
- Increase in strategic presence of India in the region.
- It will open opportunities for Indian companies to explore Afghanistans mineral wealth, believed to be worth $1-3 trillion, for mutual benefit.
- It will add to the economic rationale for Indian investment in Chabahar.
- Once the entire network comprising of road, rail and port is in place, it can become a launching pad for greater economic and strategic involvement of India in the oil and mineral-rich Central Asia.
(Behind the curtains):
- It is believed that the Chabahar port is being financed by Indian government in order to maintain Iranian and Indian influence in Afghanistan after US forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.
- It is also believed that this is a move by India in order to counter Gwadar port of Pakistan which it has given on lease to China and expects it to be developed into a Naval base.
- Business opportunities for Iran as its facilities are used.
- Chabahar port being built with Indian assistance
- Iranian influence in Afghanistan increases.
- Relieves the pressure on the US-backed Afghan Government to rely on trade routes via Pakistan, as relations b/w US and Pakistan have seen substantial restrains in recent times.
- The agreement b/w Iran and Afghanistan will assist Afghan traders including those directly working with US contracting companies as they will now be able to use the south-eastern port – Iran’s only port with direct access to the sea – for importing and exporting goods.
- Relief to US/NATO officials as the shutdown of NATO supplies from Pakistan has induced enormous setback in terms of finance to US/NATO.
So, except Pakistan which looses business in the process, it is a win-win situation for all.