A Trilateral meeting was recently held between India, Afghanistan and Iran to take Chabahar agreement further.
- Discussions were held on Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor i.e. Chabahar Agreement which was signed in May, 2016 in Tehran in the presence of Prime Minister of India and Presidents of Iran and Afghanistan.
- During the meeting, it was decided to organize a connectivity event involving all stakeholders at Chabahar within two months to increase awareness about the new opportunities offered by Chabahar Port.
- The port of Chabahar is located in southeastern Iran in the Gulf of Oman.
- It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the ocean.
- It will bolster trade by gaining access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and other parts of west Asia and even Europe. India is presently dependent on Pakistan for accessing Afghanistan through Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement which is not cost effective.
- Further Afghanistan is rich in resources like Iron, Copper, Gold and rare metals which can be tapped by India once easy access is achieved.
- Given its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz will boost oil trade.
- The distance between Kandla and the Chabahar port is less than the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai.
- This agreement enable India to do quick movement of goods first to Iran and then onwards to Afghanistan and Russia through rail & road links and INSTC.
- Over Rs 1 lakh crore investment will happen in Chabahar free trade zone. It will encourage reciprocal ties in other areas amongst participant countries(especially energy and mineral resources of Iran and Afghanistan).
- This will also give momentum to the International North-South Transport Corridor of which India and Iran are initial signatories along with Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project.
- It entails the ship, rail, and road routes for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia. Compared to current Indian Ocean-European transport route via Red Sea, Suez Canal and Mediterranean, Chabahar-based INSTC is estimated to be 40% shorter and will reduce cost of Indian trade by 30%.
- India has traditionally attached great importance to its relations with Central Asia. But, unfortunately, the relationship despite close historical & cultural contacts has not progressed to the desired extent. The key constraint India faces is the lack of direct access to Central Asia. The unstable situation in Afghanistan and a highly problematic India-Pakistan relation have deprived India from the benefit of relations with Central Asia.
- India’s traditional old ties with Iran and substantial investment in Chabahar port also provide India with an opportunity to become an important player in Middle East
- However, there are some challenges to this port also. There is need to ensure healthy dialogue with China and Pakistan to avoid any suspicion. Today, the watch-words of international ties are trust not suspicion; cooperation not dominance; inclusivity not exclusion. This is also the guiding philosophy and driving spirit of the Chabahar Agreement.
- This will be a corridor of peace and prosperity for our peoples. Motives of economic growth, and empowerment would drive it. It will build our security without making others vulnerable. It would break barriers among our nations and encourage new benchmarks of people-to-people contacts. And, help us to eventually build what we all desire and deserve – a friendly and healthy neighborhood.
Source: The Hindu