The trilateral Chabahar transport corridor project including a special economic zone is a major milestone in India’s strategic ties with Iran, say experts. The project, according to export, is also the failure of Pakistan’s “myopic” tactics to deny India transit to Afghanistan.
India, Iran and Afghanistan on Monday inked the Chabahar trilateral transit and trade corridor deal that will ensure easy movement of goods between the three countries, bypassing Pakistan.
India is to invest up to $500 million in the project to develop Chabahar port, located on the coast of Gulf of Oman and over 70 km from Pakistan’s Gwadar port that China is developing.
The Chabahar port transport and transit corridor would help link trade routes from the Indian Ocean to Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond.
“It is a big step forward for India’s strategic interests. Our relations with Iran had almost been in the backburner because of the sanctions; but now it has been taken forward to a strategic level,” former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh told IANS.
Iran is a critical player in the Middle East and an important partner in our oil supplies, he said.
Singh said the biggest impact of the deal would be on Afghanistan, “especially as Pakistan has always regarded Afghanistan as part of its strategic depth and created problems for India to have a presence there. India has been working on an alternative route, bypassing Pakistan, and with the Chabahar agreement this will become a reality,” the expert added.
He said besides the Chabahar deal, the 12 agreements inked during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tehran are also a “big step forward”.
“Mr Modi also emphasized on the importance of cultural links, the Mou between ICCR and its Iranian counterpart is significant,” he added.
“All in all it is a very positive move by the government and it needs to be appreciated for taking the bold step,” Singh said.
Former Indian envoy R. Dayakar termed the Chabahar agreement an “important milestone” and added that it serves the common economic interests of Iran and India.
“India is putting the money and developing the infrastructure. And Pakistan is the loser because of its myopic vision of not giving transit to India,” Dayakar told IANS.
According to the expert, the political dimension of the deal was secondary, and the primary aspect was the market and economy.
“Pakistan’s delaying tactics in providing transit access to India has backfired,” said Dayakar, adding that the Modi government accelerated the process. “The project was in the pipeline since 2003, under the previous NDA government.”
According to him, the Chabahar port is better than Gwadar. “It will have more transparency, and greater economic potential than Gwadar, as it also has a special economic zone,” he added.