India’s engagement with Iran will prevent Sino-Pak axis to leverage the region

By Qamar Agha | 28 Oct 2015 11:53 AM
India and Iran are part of  two old civilizations and relations between them have always been cordial. Before the creation of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan were our neighbors and during the British period both were connected  with India through road or rail . Pakistan has since denied India a passage to both these countries. Now, once again, India is trying to re-establish its connectivity with Iran through the sea route. For India, this connectivity is important because Iran is a friendly country  which is strategically located and a gate way to central Asia.

India is building a deep sea port in Chabahar city that is located in south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Iran plans to use Chabahar port for trans shipment to Afghanistan and Central Asia. India, Iran and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to give Indian goods, heading for Central Asia and Afghanistan, preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar port. It is located close to Pakistan’s Gwadar port that is being build by China. India has sanctioned an initial amount of $85 million for the development of Chabahar port and Iran would allow India to operate the port for ten years. It would be India’s first port located outside the country at a distance of only 940 km from Mundra port that is generally covered in 4 days time.

Iran has also agreed to connect land locked Afghanistan with Chabahar port. India has finalized a plan to build a 900 km long railway line from Bamiyan province in Afghanistan to Chabahar port and Iran is also upgrading Chabahar-Milak road to connect Afghanistan. India and Iran had supported Northern Alliance in Afghanistan when it was fighting against the Taliban. India has economic and security interest in Afghanistan.

Chabahar  port will be connected by road and rail to International North-South corridor and it will transport Indian goods to Central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. This would cut one third time and bring down freight charges. A strategic  partnership between India, Iran, Afghanistan  and Russia is  developing to establish a multimodal transport link connecting India with Russia, providing Europe and Central Asia access to Asia and vice versa.

Iran is a major supplier of energy resources and a major destination of our investments. India and Iran are also working on a project to bring gas pipe line from Chabahar port along the bed of Arabian Sea thereby bypassing Pakistan. Turkmenistan and Oman can also bring their natural gas to India through this pipeline. There are several gas related opportunities available in Iran and India wants development rights at Farzad-B gas field. New Delhi is already the second largest importer of crude oil, having imported 220,000 million ton  last year. India wants to import more crude oil from Iran.

Iran is developing free trade economic and industrial zone in Chabahar where India has planned to setup a urea plant provided it gets natural gas at a lower price. Since, the plant will be located in a foreign land where labor cost is higher than India, therefore, the cost of production and management will go up. Besides this, several Indian public and private companies are also interested in investing in Iran’s coal, gas, rail, shipping, agriculture and other sectors of economy. India is willing to invest up to Re 200,000 crore in Iran.

Ever since Hassan Rouhani came to power in Iran, major changes are being seen in its foreign policy. Iran’s ultimate goal is to achieve self sufficiency and emerge as a major power in West and Central Asia. It is building a big industrial base and a transportation hub for West-Central Asia that will be connected with South Asia.

Iran’s policy is to ensure that it should not be dependent on any power for economic or military support. It has come to understand that this is possible by maintaining cordial relations with all the major powers. It has signed a nuclear deal and is improving its ties with the Western Nations that will help balance its ties with Russia. It is seeking Indian participation in its development activities to counter balance Chinese involvement in Iran. India is also keen to develop closer ties with Iran. It doesn’t want Iran to form an axis with China and Pakistan and work against the interest of India in this region.

Iran is not only a supplier of energy resources to India but also a strategic ally, and New Delhi remained steadfast in its dealings with Tehran despite the pressure of Western Nations. It is in the interest of both the nations to work for peace and development and cooperate to defeat the forces of destabilization in the region.

-Qamar Agha is a serious commentator on West Asia. Email: qamar_agha@yahoo.com
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