In this era of globalization, economic heft and power dynamics are acting as twin driving forces for geopolitics. Chabahar is an Iranian port on the Makran coast in the Gulf of Oman which has become a new tipping point in the world’s geopolitics. After an MOU signed in 2003 by the Indian PM AB Vajpayee and the Iranian supreme leader Muhammad Khatabi for the joint development of the port, this place in Sisten Va Baluchistan in Iran has drawn interests of major policy makers. Given the geostrategic location of Chabahar (located near one of the busiest sea lanes of The Strait of Hormuz) and its proximity to oil rich Arabian Peninsula, it is of strategic importance not only to India but to the entire world.
Since 2004, India has been spending heavily on developing the Port facilities as well as other linking infrastructure projects in Chabahar. India has already spent nearly $100 Million in the Iranian port. Pakistan has long rejected India’s requests of a land transit route into Afghanistan. Having heavy stakes in the land of the genesis of Taliban, India has been trying to connect the Chabahar port to the Nimruz Province of Western Afghanistan. India has built the Zaranj Delaram Highway which acts as a link between Iran and Afghanistan. It connects the port to Kandahar-Herat Highway. This project was completed and inaugurated by India in 2009.
India is also keen on investing heavily in developing railway infrastructure connecting Iran and Afghanistan. Having substantial expertise in building up railway infrastructure, and running one of the biggest railway networks in the world, India has announced the development of a rail link between the Hajigak mines in Central Afghanistan and Chabahar port. The railway line would connect important cities of Chabahar-Zaranj-Delaram-Hajigak. India and Iran have also announced co-development of a railway link connecting the port and Bam.
India has been actively involved in the Iranian project of connecting the port with the other Central Asian economies. Chabahar port provides an alternate transit route for India to access the mineral rich and landlocked countries of Central Asia. Iran has started building a rail link between Chabahar port and Asghabad in Turkmenistan, the work for which started in 2010. The railway route connects import cities of Zahedan, Mashhad and Asghabad to the Chabahar port.
The Chabahar port will shortly become the 3rd largest petrochemical hub in the world after Imam and Assaluyeh. India needs to step up its dialogue process with Iran for more engagement and controls of the Chabahar port. Chabahar’s issue must be addressed on a priority basis by the Government of India and India will have to make sure it’s vacillation and obdurate bureaucracy does not come in the way of a healthy Indo-Iranian relationship.
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