- Highlights of the new trade route Chabahar
- How is it different from traditional trade route of Bandar Abbas of IRAN?
- Pakistan’s obduracy
- Will Chinese see chabahar as a threat?
- What are the strategic implications?
- What signals India is sending to other stakeholders in the region?
- Will the Chabahar port change the geopolitics of the region?
- Will there be pressure from USA for collaborating with IRAN going forward?
- Will Russia-China-Pakistan-IRAN convergence create any hindrance for India?
- Indian perspective
- Tackling terrorism in the region
India, Iran & Afghanistan: Converging interests
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GS (M) Paper-2: “India and its neighbourhood- relations.”
- India shipped its first consignment of Wheat to Afghanistan by sea through IRAN’s strategic Chabahar port, launching a trade bypassing Pakistan.
- This shipment and Indian gift for Afghanistan was sent from Western sea port of Kandla, and it will be taken by trucks to Afghanistan through Iranian port.
Highlights of the new trade route Chabahar:
- Chabahar is much older initiative almost since mid-1990’s which got the idea of connectivity with Afghanistan via IRAN through this port in 2002.
- This trade was actually conceived around 2002 after the defeat of the Taliban and the vital component of this route was the construction by India of Zaranj-Delaram route.
- India at that time recognised the significance of this trade route considering that Pakistan’s obduracy that would be a permanent block of access over land to Afghanistan.
- This shipment is not only having an economic and commercial assistance but also strategic significance.
- The new trade route follows an air freight corridor introduced between India and Afghanistan to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.
How is it different from traditional trade route of Bandar Abbas of IRAN?
- India relied on Bandar Abbas route as there was no other option in the past and was unbuildly route.
- The Chabahar is much more fast and efficient route to Afghanistan which is economically and strategically viable.
- There were lots of twists and turns as far as IRAN-US relations are concerned but due to the sanctions on IRAN this step would have taken much earlier.
- Afghanistan was in the Transit Trade Agreement with Pakistan where Afghanistan has its hands tied due to Pakistan’s obduracy where in the trucks were allowed to reached Wagah border but went empty.
- Pakistan currently do not allow India to transport through its territory to Afghanistan as it sees no role of India in Afghanistan.
- There is hardly any chance that Pakistan will ever allow Indian goods through its territory to Afghanistan.
- Pakistan’s military is unwilling for allowing such trade to happen between India and Afghanistan.
- There is a view amongst senior personal in Pakistan that this denial of access is harming Pakistan.
- If China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has to reach its full advantage, then access will have to be given. But this thinking has a long way to go as it does not seems to result in near future.
- USA will not be able to completely abandon Pakistan as it will remain the major NATO ally and US will not want Pakistan to be over winged by terrorists.
Will Chinese see chabahar as a threat?
- There has been signals from China and Pakistan as well for this trade route as it is so close to Gwadar which is central jewel to CPEC.
- Chinese are not going to take it lightly as they have invested billions of dollars while Pakistan do not realise that they have been gone into a debt trap and prompting the CPEC as an achievement.
- They will try to make CPEC success as it is central to the OBOR initiative which will bring definite actions sooner or later.
- Though there is lots of Chinese stake in the region in Gwadar and CPEC but at the same time it is not opposing Chabahar and is seen as a competition.
- While they are committed to OBOR and CPEC, presently China have great interest to stabilise Afghanistan because as China is rising it is realising the problem of instability in the region.
What are the strategic implications?
- In spite of all the road block created by Pakistan, India had made a breakthrough not due to US prodding but for India’s own interests linked with IRAN & Afghanistan.
- India has also been able to convince USA that Indo-IRAN relations should not be looked in the context of US-IRAN relations as Afghanistan is important and IRAN hence becomes important link.
- Through IRAN, India is also having its focus on Central Asia beyond to Russia and Europe.
- IRAN, Afghanistan and Pakistan are important links along with Central Asia for OBOR initiative of China.
- So, India with Australia, USA, Japan and IRAN are also trying to have an alternative maritime route to OBOR.
- USA was not able to achieve much in the region despite all security & military measure, and economic assistance, so it is looking towards India as a prospective partner to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.
- USA is now willing to put pressure on Pakistan so that it does not destabilise Afghanistan any more than what it has been doing.
- Indian strategic goal is achieved proving Pakistan to be the roadblock in stabilising Afghanistan and its trade with India through land route.
- There can be no stable Afghanistan without Pakistan ceasing its interference and India can’t be a major player in Afghanistan which Pakistan sees as a strategic depth.
- USA want India and Pakistan both as its ally as they have their own strategic interests in Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia, China and global interests.
- India gave a signal to USA that not to intervene in its Chabahar process as it is strategically very important for the region.
What signals India is sending to other stakeholders in the region?
- First and primary signal is to Afghanistan that no matter whatever the conditions India will stabilise Afghanistan not only due to its own interests but for the larger interest of the region.
- This step was made firm by delivering attack helicopters without putting boots on the grounds.
- More importantly it is a message to Pakistan that though it does not want to be the part to develop the region and bring economic prosperity, it cannot stall the development in this region.
- It is a clear signal to China, Pakistan and also to Afghanistan that India will overcome all the barriers when it comes to developing ties with Afghanistan and assisting their people as it can.
- Therefore, it is rightly the convergence of interests of IRAN, India and Afghanistan.
Will the Chabahar port change the geopolitics of the region?
- It will change as India has access which is an alternative to lots of strategy.
- India is demonstrating its ability to upstate and pursue its objective whatever be the obstacles. The international community will now take note and then the geopolitics will start shifting.
- Chabahar is a regional initiative and Afghanistan just became the cockpit for struggle of influence between India and Pakistan.
Will there be pressure from USA for collaborating with IRAN going forward?
- USA presently is looking towards Middle East and West Asia through Israeli prism and have been finding flaws with IRAN.
- But the world at large and senior US administration have realised the significance of IRAN.
- India in the past as well and now also will with stand the pressure from USA as IRAN is critical for Indian access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Transcaucasia.
- There is presently no pressure from USA to back paddle on this move.
Will Russia-China-Pakistan-IRAN convergence create any hindrance for India?
- This convergence along with India-US-Australia-IRAN-Japan does not seems any hindrance.
- There are many areas where both corridors converge for instance Russia is also interested in stable Afghanistan like East due to its economic & strategic interests.
- China is also looking for minerals, trade and investments at the same time they feared because of the Xinjiang province as the Uyghurs being trained and send to create trouble in their Muslim dominated province.
- India has its own interests with IRAN and despite sanctions India widened and deepened its economic cooperation and relations with IRAN.
- The trade between India and Pakistan has its own multiplier effect with whole region and chabahar will help to grow the trade between India and Afghanistan.
- USA want Indian cooperation that created limited pressure on Pakistan on terrorism containment issue.
- India made it clear to USA that it has its own independent foreign policy to perceive.
- India will have to take steps to effectively counter China and Pakistan also, but long term viability if the project has to be seen which require shipment beyond Afghanistan.
- India will also have to ensure the safety and security of the route as it does passes through Sistan Baluchistan part of IRAN, where there are rebel insurgency going on.
- At the same time India also holds lots of goodwill amongst the Baloch within Afghanistan.
- The real success of this port will be when the Central Asian goods start getting disembarked at Chabahar and further it must emerge as the transit port for which it has to give competition to Dubai.
- Cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is also to be kept in mind in the overall view of terrorism and trade.
Tackling terrorism in the region:
- India and Afghanistan together can fight against terrorism which both have been doing.
- IRAN also wants to be the part to tackle the terrorism, but it has other considerations that confuses Iranian policy amongst the regional player.
- US Afghan’s policy is also seemed as better option as it does not have any time limits which is in favour of Afghanistan.
- India while making Chabahar a success, should not underestimate the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia and others opposing IRAN.
- If this route becomes successful and viable then Afghanistan’s growth will take-off India’s investment in a big way, but India should also keep Chinese and Pakistan’s interruption in mind.