Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Commentary: Why India-Iran Chabahar agreement is a landmark



The Indian Prime Minister was not exaggerating at all when he called the recent India-Iran-Afghanistan agreement a ‘historic’ one, an epithet otherwise thrown rather cheaply at international meets. He may as well have used the word ‘monumental’ to underline the long-lasting and game changing pact. The core of the pact is of course the Chabahar, the sea port which India had undertaken to develop in 2002. A quick look at the location of Chabahar on the map will explain the geopolitical significance of the pact in an instance. Located in south-eastern Iran, at the Gulf of Oman, it happens to be the only Iranian port with direct access to the ocean. Further, this deep seaport has a good potential to connect India with a number of strategically important countries including Afghanistan, Oman, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, all of which signed the Ashgabat agreement, a transit pact in 2011. This transit corridor aims at facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. All of this implies that India has now successfully opened a corridor connecting it to the sea routes and the transport passages throughout the Central Asian countries with no need to depend on the ever sulking neighbour Pakistan. This article presents a good summary of the highlights and the proceedings before and after the agreement was signed recently in Teheran between India and  Iran but also includes Afghanistan.  

Although the concerned countries in their indirect references to Pakistan tried to give reassuring messages implying that the agreement is not against any other country, repeated mention of terrorism across borders seemed to point at our neighbour. The fact remains that once Pakistan gets over its inhibitions, it may join the group and benefit greatly from the opportunities that will follow immediately. The agreement opens up possibilities of further cooperation among all the countries involved as the transport expenses will reduce drastically as soon as the port and the connecting railway lines become operative.

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