Chabahar Port

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    In News

    • The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways visited the Shahid Behestti port at Chabahar in Iran to review the progress of development.

    About the Chabahar Port

    • Meaning: Chabahar is made of Persian words Chahar meaning four; and bahar meaning spring. 
      • Chabahar city is also home to Iran’s only deep-seaport with direct access to the ocean.
    • Location: Off the Gulf of Oman in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan & is the only Iranian port with direct access to the ocean.
    • Consist of two ports: Chabahar Port consists of two separate ports called Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti. 
    • Significance: Chabahar is important for its fishery sector and will act as an important trade center connecting South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East. 

    Significance of Chabahar Port for India

    • Gateway to Central Asia and beyond: The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast & Central Asia and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.
      • This is partly solved by INSTC.
      • This port will reduce dependency on the Suez Canal and reduce transportation time.
    • Trading with Afghanistan: The INSTC allowed India to trade with the outside world via Iran, but India could not do so with Afghanistan (not a member of INSTC) in spite of being a very close neighbor.
      • In May 2016, a trilateral agreement was signed between India, Iran and Afghanistan for using Chabahar Port.
      • It will facilitate India’s role in Afghanistan’s development.
    • Strategic Importance: Due to its location in the Gulf of Oman and at the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz and enables Iran to have direct entry to the Indian Ocean.
      • Chabahar Port is also quite near the Gwadar Port of Pakistan being developed by China.
      • It will also counter the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
      • Help India in strengthening its maritime power in this region.
    • Strengthening relations: Can be a success story in the India-Iran relationship. Also, the US has exempted India from Sanctions.

    Major Hindrances/ Roadblocks

    • China’s dominance: China has been intensifying its political, military and economic ties with Iran and the Arab world, if it gets a foothold over Chabahar, this could shift the balance of power in China’s favour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
    • US Sanction: Although exempted from US sanctions, possibility of its withdrawal in the near future can be a major hindrance for India.
      • India stopped oil imports from Iran after the US sanctions waivers expired in May 2019.
    • Tilt towards China: With rising US-China tensions, Iran is planning for an agreement that provides “a ground for Iran and China’s participation in basic projects including ‘Belt and Road’ initiative (BRI).
    • Bureaucratic Hurdles  in India: Like operational hurdles, delays in dispersal of funds, lack of effective communication and diplomatic coordination etc.

    Conclusion & Way Ahead

    • India should effectively use Chabahar port in Iran to establish trade and transport communications with Central Asian markets.
    • Geographical proximity, the need for regional connectivity and economic integration, and common security challenges in Afghanistan and West and Central Asia demand close cooperation between India and Iran. 

    Source: TH