Chabahar port to be a key pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific strategy
Coming closely on the heels of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, commemorated on a rain-soaked day in Tehran – Iran, India and Iran are set to observe the ‘Chabahar Day’ on February 26 at the strategic port located in Iran and administered by India.
The Chabahar port is a key pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific strategy that also connects Eurasia with the Indian Ocean Region. It is coming up at a time when China is set to develop Gwadar port as a military facility in Pakistan.
The jointly organized event managed by India will constitute a high-level committee consisting of business delegates from Afghanistan, Central Asia and Russia. Some Indian business delegations too are visiting Chabahar port to understand the business dynamics of trade with Afghanistan and Eurasia. Senior executives from TPCI too are visiting Iran as guests of Chabahar Free Trade Zone authority.
The port, India’s key to Afghanistan and Eurasia, became operational for transit to Kabul following a tripartite agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran. The three countries have already jointly inaugurated the office of the Indian special purpose vehicle – India Ports Global Chabahar Free Zone (IPGCFZ) – in the port. The physical takeover of the terminal area, cargo handling equipment and office building too is ready for operations.
India is also developing a 500-km long Chabahar-Zahedan railway link that will connect Afghanistan’s Zaranj-Delaram road, thus facilitating trade relations with land-locked Afghanistan.
Some commercial operations too have begun at IPGCFZ, starting with the arrival of a Cyprus registered bulk carrier with 72,458 MT of corn cargo.
The event will be marked by Iran making a presentation on the prospects of the port to the visiting delegates.
Significantly, Iran is pitching the event as an opportunity for businessmen, traders, freight companies, and national and international liners from various countries. The chief goal is to enable entry of large international shipping liners into the port.
A new India, Russia and Iran cargo transport corridor is also on the anvil, which would be a cheaper and shorter alternative to the Suez Canal or the China route and is expected to reduce transport costs by $2500 per 15 tons of cargo, besides reducing the travel time by nearly half.
This new International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), when it comes into effect, will bring Central Asian and East European markets much closer to India, thus enhancing bilateral trade opportunities between the two regions. Chabahar port may also play a key link to moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and East European countries.
To have this Corridor operational, it is imperative that the Astrakhan port is developed which will facilitate the onward movement of freight. In this regard, DB Venkatesh Varma, India’s ambassador to Russia, has already visited the Astrakhan region to oversee the preparations of the Russian authorities to develop this port.