Despite sanctions on Iran, India is still intent on pushing ahead with the Chabahar Port
- Earlier this week,
India, Iranand Afghanistanheld trilateral discussions for the first time ever in Kabul.
- The focus of the discussions was the long-delayed
Chabaharport project in Iran, which has been a question mark for India following the Trump administration’s decision to reimpose sanctionson Iran.
- During its 2+2 talks with the US last week, India made a case for its participation in the Chabahar port project. The next round of trilateral discussions between India, Iran and Afghanistan is scheduled for 2019.
While a number of issues were discussed, such as counter-terrorism cooperation and the
A long time in the making
First conceived in 2003, the Chabahar port, which can be accessed from India’s western coast, is envisioned as a strategic competitor to the
India and Iran signed an agreement in May 2016 to commence work on the port. At the time, the development of the port was to be divided into two phases. India agreed to invest $500 million developing two berths in the first phase of the project, along with $1.6 billion for a rail link from the port to Afghanistan. Phase 1 was inaugurated by Iran’s President
India wavers, China steps in?
Due to repeated delays on the project from India’s end, Iran was said to be mulling a proposal to bring China on as a partner for the project. China’s participation would go against India’s interests, not only because it would lose out on significant trade opportunities but also due to the fact that it would increase China’s footprint in the region.
During its 2+2 talks with the US last week, India made a case for its participation in the Chabahar port project, explaining how it would benefit Afghanistan from an economic standpoint - mainly due to direct connectivity with India. The rehabilitation and economic resurgence of the war-ravaged country is an urgent concern for the US, which has had a military presence there since the early 2000s. It is counting on India’s help to stabilise the Afghani economy.
India, Iran and Afghanistan decided to hold a more substantive round of talks on the subject in 2019, when the possible effect of sanctions on Iran will be more certain and the former receives an official go-ahead from the US for its participation. The major impetus behind this week’s discussions was to likely show that the three parties, especially India, were committed to developing the port.