Context: After months of what appeared to be a “go-slow”, the Union government has revved up its interest in using Iran’s Chabahar port to connect to Afghanistan, Europe, Russia and Central Asia for trade.
Importance of Chabahar port for India:
- It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe, and Central Asia.
- It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port.
- Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar, and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline considering recent global energy crisis due to Russia- Ukraine conflict.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
Delay in the Chabahar port project:
- Iran’s relationship with western countries, especially the United States: In years when western sanctions against Iran increased, the Chabahar project has been put on the back-burner, while in the years when nuclear talks that resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 came into being, the Chabahar port has been easier to work on.
- In 2018, the S. Trump administration put paid to India’s plans by walking out of the JCPOA and slapping new sanctions on dealing with Iran. This led to the Union Government “zeroing out” all its oil imports from Iran, earlier a major supplier to India, causing a strain in ties.
- The Union Government also snapped ties with Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, which 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.
- With the government now reopening the Indian Embassy in Kabul, and establishing ties with the Taliban government, it is possible that the Chabahar route will once again be employed
- Completion of Chabahar port project will give a boost to Indian strategic interest and objectives in the region.
Must Read: Chabahar Port
Source: The Hindu