May 25, 2016
PTIHistoric deal: “Once the Chabahar port is developed, goods from India will not only travel up to Afghanistan, but beyond.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tehran.
Whether it’s security or connectivity, Afghanistan is now a focal point of world powers and regional leaders. India needs to find its own role to build on the potential of the Chabahar gambit
The signing of the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan has been described as a “game changer”, improving manifold the way India can deal with both countries in its “extended neighbourhood” without having to deal with its most intractable neighbour, Pakistan. Once the Chabahar port is developed, goods from India will not only travel up to Afghanistan, but beyond, along the yet-to-be developed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to Central Asia.
The idea isn’t new, but it has faced many challenges, including U.S. sanctions on Iran and the war against terror in Afghanistan. In 2003, India signed a tripartite agreement with Iran and Afghanistan for preferential trade that would eventually ply through the Chabahar port and Special Economic Zone, and in 2013, committed $100 million for the port’s development. In 2009, India also handed over a $135-million Zaranj-Delaram highway to Afghanistan that ran to the Iran border, while Iran constructed the road connecting Chabahar to Zahedan on its side.
A changed country