Chabahar Port & India: Chabahar Port is located in the Gulf of Oman in southeastern Iran. It is the only Iranian port that has direct access to the sea. It is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries.
The first meeting between India and Central Asia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Chabahar port was held in Mumbai on 12-13 April. A joint statement was issued after the meeting, emphasizing on the involvement of private stakeholders and helping Afghanistan with wheat.
The meeting was chaired by Secretary (ER) and was attended by Deputy Ministers and senior officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The representative of the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP), the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran and the Consul General of Afghanistan were specially invited for the event.
During the meeting, Managing Director of India Ports Global Limited (IPGAL) made a comprehensive presentation on the facilities and current operations at Shahid Beheshti Terminal of Chabahar Port. The country representative of UNWFP made a presentation on the ongoing cooperation between India and UNWFP in Afghanistan for distribution of wheat aid. The Consul General of Afghanistan emphasized the importance of Chabahar port in providing humanitarian aid for the Afghan people and economic opportunities for Afghan merchants.
The participants appreciated the role played by Shahid Behesti Terminal, Chabahar Port in facilitating the shipment of humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan. Explain that IPGL started operating Shahit Behesti Terminal in December 2018. Since then, India has used the port to ship a total of 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of pulses to Afghanistan.
Since regional connectivity is necessary to increase trade and commerce. Therefore, the need to take it further was emphasized. In this context, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran proposed to hold the next round of India-Central Asia Joint Working Group (JWG) in Iran with the promotion of private sector participation, which was welcomed by the participants. The representatives of the countries said that we have to work on priority for the development of connectivity. Since it can be helpful in increasing the trade and commercial cooperation manifold. For this, all expressed their commitment to increase the participation of private investment on a large scale, to implement international standards, to ensure mutual access to the markets.
They reaffirmed that initiatives to enhance connectivity must confirm to international norms, rule of law and respect for international commitments and be based on mutual consent for sustainable development. We need transparency, broad participation, local priorities, financial stability and also taking care of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all to develop sustainable connectivity. Actually, this thing was said in the context of China’s One Belt Road and CPEC. Since the ongoing CPEC developed by China will pass through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir of Jammu and Kashmir. India has already expressed its displeasure on this and this was the reason why India had backed down from participating in this project despite China’s request.
Why is it important for India
Chabahar port comprises of two separate ports. The name of one of them is Shahid Kalantari and the name of the other is Shahid Beheshti. The Indian firm India Ports Global Limited is operating at the Shaheed Beheshti Port. The development of Chabahar port needs to be seen not in isolation but through the prism of opportunities. Since India-Iran bilateral relations are a bit complicated and the feasibility of Chabahar port needs to be considered from the Indian point of view.
What are the advantages of Chabahar Port
Direct route to Afghanistan: This is extremely important in ensuring the establishment of a politically stable link between India and Afghanistan. Pakistan refuses to allow its territory to be used by Indian trucks going to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will also help Afghanistan to trade with other countries. With its commencement, Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan will reduce and Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan’s domestic politics will also reduce to a great extent, due to which India will benefit strategically.
Will also prove helpful in countering China: The Chabahar port will also be beneficial to India in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as in countering the Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea, which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Please tell that Gwadar Port is only 72 km away from Chabahar Port.
Trade and commerce will get a boost: There will be a significant increase in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice from Chabahar port in India. India will also see a considerable decline in the cost of importing oil. According to the commerce ministry, the Chabahar port, along with INSTC, offers 30% cheaper imports than the Mediterranean-Suez route. Apart from this, natural gas from Central Asia can be exported to India through Chabahar port. Since India is already a part of projects like Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) pipeline. Moreover, India has already increased crude oil purchases from Iran since the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran by the West.
Human operation will be beneficial: From a diplomatic point of view, the Chabahar port can be used by India as a point from where humanitarian operations in Central and South Asia can be coordinated.
Links to the International North-South Transport Corridor: Chabahar port will be helpful in making India easy access to Iran. A major gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor which includes sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central-Asia.
Challenges in the development of Chabahar port
The growing relationship between Iran and China: In recent times, Iran has come closer to China. China is developing its relations with Iran more rapidly. The Chinese President had visited Iran in 2016. During that time, he had signed a comprehensive plan agreement for cooperation between the two countries. Apart from this, Iran approved the much publicized strategic partnership draft with China. Under this, both the countries proposed to take their long-term partnership to a new level through an agreement of US $ 400 billion.
Bad relations between Iran-US: The progress of the Chabahar port depends on how relations between Iran and the United States develop. Since India wants to make its relations with Iran strong and durable. But for this, Iran needs support from the US for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and also support from the US on the international stage. India can help establish a balance between the two countries and take proactive steps to promote global peace in the form of peace-keeping in line with its national interest.
What should be the way forward?
Since India is the organizer and chairman of the G20 summit this year. In such a situation, India has a great opportunity to weave its geo-political interests and geo-economic issues. Till now, India has been considered as a rising power striving to become a global power. In 2023, India has an opportunity to explain the importance of Chabahar port. Chabahar Port can become the gateway to India’s global presence. India cannot confine itself to South Asia and there is much to be gained from an extended neighborhood (Iran-Afghanistan). This will not only help in trade and energy security, but also play an important role in becoming a superpower. Is. For the smooth development of Chabahar port and economic prosperity of both countries, it is important to have strong bilateral political and economic ties between India and Iran.