In May 2016, Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister in 15 years to visit Iran, and during his visit, he pledged up to $500 million to develop and operate Iran’s Chabahar port as part of a trilateral engagement between India, Iran and Afghanistan.
Chabahar has two ports — Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti — each with five berths. The project investment arm of the shipping ministry — India Ports Global — is partnering with a joint venture between the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Gujarat’s Kandla Port Trust to develop two container berths with a length of 640 metres and three multi-cargo berths by investing $85 million.
On August 5, 2017, Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping, who was on a two-day deputation to Iran to represent India at the oath taking ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani, said that the government is hopeful that the strategic Chabahar port will be functional by 2018. “India and Iran have been historically sharing special ties. We’re keen on developing Chabahar Port and are hopeful of starting operations in 12 to 18 months,” Gadkari told PTI.
WHERE IS CHABAHAR PORT?
Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.
7 REASONS WHY CHABAHAR PORT IS CRUCIAL FOR INDIA
The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.