This video shows you that India’s Chabahar Challenge Gets Serious.
India’s plans for the development of the Chabahar port in Iran seem to have run into some headwinds of late in the face of the Trump administration’s tough stand on Iran. While New Delhi is planning to make the port of Chabahar operational by 2019, the recent visit to India by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, seems to have thrown a spanner in the works.
On Iran, New Delhi seems to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. While Washington has asked it to reduce oil imports from Iran, doing so may impinge on its ties with Iran. Though it is likely that New Delhi may not completely cut down on oil imports from Iran, it may reduce them in the light of its growing ties with the United States. It is noteworthy that Iran is the third biggest supplier of oil to New Delhi after Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
The deal to develop Chabahar port by India was announced during a historic visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2016. Modi had noted that New Delhi would be investing $500 million in the strategic port. During the visit of the Iranian president to India earlier this year, the Lease Contract for Shahid Beheshti Port-Phase 1 of Chabahar during Interim Period between Port and Maritime Organization (PMO), Iran and India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) was signed.
Why Chabahar Matters For India
First, given the fact that Pakistan does not allow India overland transit rights through its territory, Chabahar is crucial for India’s access to Afghanistan and beyond. India has a huge stake in Afghanistan and its stability and New Delhi is one of the biggest international donors in Afghanistan. The security situation in Afghanistan is a concern for India as in December 1999, the Taliban had hijacked an Indian airliner to Kandahar in Afghanistan and India had to release three terrorists in exchange for the hostages.
Second, given the fact that India has not joined the China-led Belt and Road Initiative due to concerns over sovereignty and transparency, Chabahar assumes great importance for India. Gwadar port in Pakistan (which is a part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is less than 100 kms away from Chabahar. Beijing has also been rapidly making inroads into India’s neighborhood through its so-called “string of pearls strategy,” which has seen it helping with port development in Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), Chittagong (Bangladesh), and Kyaukpyu (Myanmar).
Third, access to Chabahar port is important for India’s energy security. As a growing economy, India has been eyeing the energy-rich Central Asian countries. Natural gas from Central Asia could be exported to India via the Chabahar port. India is already a part of projects like the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (TAPI) pipeline.
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