Chabahar is a seaport located on the Makran coast of Sistan and Baluchistan Province of Iran, next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz. It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. It is close to central Asian countries like Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc. it is also termed the ‘Golden Gate’ to these land locked countries since it provide them access to Indian Ocean for trade.
India pledged to develop the Chabahar port with initial investment of $500 million as a part of trilateral engagement between India, Iran and Afghanistan, when Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi visited Iran in 2016. The first phase of Chabahar port was inaugurated in December 2017.
Significance of Chabahar Port
The Chabahar Port is one project that has assumed significant economic and strategic importance in recent times. Before independence India had direct access to the central Asian countries. However, after creation of Pakistan, India lost its direct connection with central Asia. Even though, trade with central Asian countries is possible via Pakistan, it has not been possible due to the strained relations between India and Pakistan.
The first and foremost significance of Chabahar port is that now India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan and other central Asian countries. Indian cargo transported via the sea will now be offloaded at Chabahar, from where trucks and trains will carry it to Afghanistan and then onward to the CARs. In addition to opening up new markets for India in Afghanistan and the CARs, Chabahar will boost their economies, too, and strengthen India’s economic relationship with Iran.
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. It is estimated that the port will help India to halve the time and cost of doing business with Central Asian countries.
Chabahar port is not just about providing a gateway linking India, Iran and Afghanistan. It is a key hub in the International North-South Transport Corridor initiative, a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network of ship, rail and road routes to move cargo between India, Iran, Afghanistan, the CARs, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, and Europe.
Apart from the economic advantages, Chabahar port also provides strategic advantages to India, Iran and other central Asian countries against increasing influence of China in the region. It will provide an alternate mechanism to both BRI and CPEC projects being developed in the region by China.
Chabahar would bring about the biggest breakthrough in Asian transport connectivity with enormous implications for the entire region both in terms of spurring economic prosperity and ensuring political stability.