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  • Context (IE): During a visit to Iran, EAM S Jaishankar held discussions about establishing a long-term cooperation framework for the Chabahar port.

Chabahar Port

 Chabahar port

  • Chabahar is located at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman.
  • It is only about 170 kilometres west of the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
  • Chabahar is Iran’s only oceanic port and the first deepwater port that putting Iran on the global oceanic trade route map.
  • A Oceanic port is a port located on the shore of a sea or ocean. It is further categorised as commercial and non-commercial.
  • Types of Ports: Inland Port, Sea Ports, River Ports, Dry Ports.
  • It is situated in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on the Makran coast.

India in Chabahar Port

  • There are two main ports in Chabahar – the Shahid Kalantari port and the Shahid Beheshti port.
  • The Shahid Kalantari port was developed in the 1980s.
  • Iran offered India the project of developing the Shahid Beheshti port.
  • The Chabahar Project was signed in 2003, and the port is being developed in four Phases.
  • India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement in April 2016, leading to the rapid development of work in Chabahar.
  • The two countries signed an initial agreement in 2016 for India to develop and operate the port’s Shahid Beheshti terminal for ten years.
    • Several factors, including differences in some clauses in the pact, have delayed the finalisation of the long-term agreement.
      • E.g. Clause related to jurisdiction for arbitration in case of disputes.
  • In 2017, the first phase of Shahid Beheshti port was inaugurated.
  • One of the critical projects of keen interest to India and Iran was the linking of Chabahar Port to the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan.
    • This is a 215 km long highway that was built in Afghanistan with assistance from India.

Significance of Chabahar Port

India-Iran Relations

  • It will Boost trade ties, diplomatic ties, and military ties with Iran.
  • With the set up of Chabahr Port, Iran became a military ally of India.

Alternative Trade Route

  • India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia has been dependent on transit through Pakistan.
  • Chabahar Port offers an alternative route that bypasses Pakistan, reducing India’s reliance on Pakistan for trade with Afghanistan and beyond.

Economic Benefits

  • It offers India a gateway to the resource-rich and economically vibrant region of Central Asia.
  • It can enhance India’s trade and investment opportunities, leading to economic growth and job creation in India.

Humanitarian Assistance

  • Chabahar Port can serve as a entry point for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
    • To provide aid, infrastructure development support, and other assistance to Afghanistan, contributing to regional stability.

Strategic Influence

  • By developing and operating Chabahar Port, India can enhance its strategic influence in the Indian Ocean region.
  • It provides India with a ability to counterbalance China’s influence in the region, mainly through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
    • Chabahar could be used to counter china’s naval presence in Gwadar port.

Marine Sector

  • Chabahar is made of the Persian words Chahar, meaning four, and bahar, meaning spring (A place that has spring in all the four seasons of the year).
  • Chabahar is essential for its fishery sector.

Energy Security

  • The Port allows India to access energy resources in Iran and the broader region.
  • It opens up opportunities for India to invest in Iran’s energy sector & secure stable energy supply.

Strengthening Regional Connectivity

  • Chabahar-Zahedan railway line: This will connect Chabahar Port to Afghanistan and further into Central Asia.
    • This project enhances regional connectivity and promotes economic integration among countries in the region.
    • It will give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

     Chabahar Rail Project

  • INSTC: It would give momentum to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). India and Iran are initial signatories, along with Russia.
    • Iran is the critical gateway to this project.
  • Transportation Hub: Chabahar aims to become a transportation hub, connecting landlocked Central Asian countries to global markets through a combination of sea, rail, and road routes.

INSTC

  • The INSTC project was originally decided between India, Iran, and Russia in 2000 in St Petersburg and subsequently included ten other Central Asian and West Asian countries.
  • It envisions a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road routes.
  • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Astrakhan, etc.
  • It aims to reduce the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30% and bring down the transit time from 40 days by more than half.

Enhanced Maritime Trade

  • Chabahar Port offers India an alternative maritime route to reach markets in the Persian Gulf, the broader Middle East, and beyond.
  • It reduces transit time and shipping costs for Indian goods.

Challenges to realising the complete benefit of the Chabahar Project

  • Maximum pressure strategy: The USA’s comprehensive sanctions on Iran have hampered Iran’s ambitions to become a key energy supplier to India.
    • The INSTC would require USA’s assistance to accomplish its goal.
    • Even if EU agree to lift sanctions, Iran’s access to dollar-dominated markets will be subject to USA’s approval.
    • The Chabahar project’s is vulnerable to the region’s current geopolitical climate, including the failure of the JCPOA negotiations.
  • Iran-China Relations: Iran’s increasing reliance on Beijing could hurt Indo-Iranian competition and potentially halt connectivity projects.
    • India has expressed concerns about the agreement due to the 25-year trade agreement between Iran and Beijing.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

  • The deal is also known as 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.
  • The JCPOA was the result of negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States + Germany).
  • Under the deal, Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.
  • Iran also agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access its nuclear sites.
  • Delay in the Project: Delay in fulfilling the obligations of developing the Chabahar Port and the Chabahar-Zahedan railway route on India’s part.
    • On India’s failure to complete the 624 km railway line on time, Iran may seek more investment from China.
    • India sees the Sino-Iranian agreement as a step towards India’s withdrawal from Chabahar Port.
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