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Chabahar project linking India with Afghanistan via Iran gets further boost
26 Apr 2014
A meeting between Iran, Afghanistan and India has furthered the proposed opening of the internal transits that will streamline trade between India and Afghanistan. Geographically Pakistan lies between the two countries and they have always denied India access to overland routes for trade.
The only way for export and import to prosper, is if the trade were facilitated via Iran. It is felt that all three countries will benefit from the new internal routes. Afghanistan especially will not suffer so much through being landlocked and its consequent dependence on Pakistan to access the Arabian Sea. The new port will help India bypass Pakistan, link with Afghanistan and establish Iran’s position as a gateway to central Asia.
A renewed project
In preparation for the new routes in 2003, Iran laid out a link road to its frontier with western Afghanistan and subsequently develop the Chabahar’s hinterland. At the other end of the alternative route in India, Route 606 was constructed from the Iran-Afghan border to the circular highway that connects all the major cities in the country. Unfortunately over the last decade the project has been delayed by both economic and political issues.
The port of Chabahar
A highly important factor in the trade routes is the port of Chabahar. Located on the Makran coast in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, it is not only Iran’s first deep-water port but also its the only port directly facing the Indian Ocean. Chabahar is located just 72 kilometers (44 miles) west of Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar.
Fat-tracking the project
Since the meeting and the signing of the draft memorandum of understanding on transit trade between the three countries (which included talks about dedicated shipping lines between India and Iran) it has triggered positive feelings that the Chabahar project should now be fast-tracked. It is now highly likely that it will be one of the top priorities for foreign policy when the new BJP government in India convenes in May of this year.
Expanding India’s sea connectivity
The BJP, when promoting its intentions for investing in development of India’s sea routes has specifically talked about constructing modern ports all along the Indian coastline. This project which will also take into account India’s maritime infrastructure outside the border of the country is to be called “Project Sagar Mala”.
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