Unlocking Opportunities: India’s Vision for Chabahar Port and North-South Connectivity
In a significant diplomatic move, India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, engaged in extensive discussions with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, laying the groundwork for India’s enduring involvement with the strategically crucial Chabahar port and the ambitious North-South connectivity project. The discussions, part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two nations, explored a spectrum of issues, including maritime security threats, regional conflicts, and broader international cooperation.
Strengthening Ties: A Diplomatic Odyssey
Jaishankar, currently in the Iranian capital, initiated his diplomatic engagements by meeting Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mehrdad Bazrpash. The talks delved into establishing a long-term cooperation framework for the Chabahar port, situated in southeastern Iran. This port, jointly developed by India and Iran, holds immense potential to bolster connectivity and trade ties, particularly with Afghanistan.
Navigating Maritime Challenges
Amidst growing concerns about threats to maritime shipping in the region, Jaishankar emphasized the urgent need to address these issues promptly. The apparent reference to the targeting of merchant vessels in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Yemen’s Houthi rebels during the Israel-Hamas conflict underscored the gravity of the situation. The external affairs minister called for united and resolute action, aligning with the recent US and UK air strikes targeting Houthi positions in Yemen.
India has been actively monitoring developments in the Red Sea, with the issue featuring prominently in a recent conversation between Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Indian Navy has already intensified its deployment of ships and surveillance aircraft in critical sea lanes, including the North and Central Arabian Sea, to ensure maritime security.
Global Issues on the Agenda
Beyond the immediate concerns, Jaishankar highlighted that discussions extended to a broader international context. Issues such as the situation in Gaza, developments in Afghanistan, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, and collaboration within the BRICS framework were part of the bilateral discourse. This diplomatic breadth demonstrates India’s commitment to engaging with Iran on a multitude of global challenges.
Vision for Chabahar Port: A Regional Transit Hub
The Chabahar port project, located in the energy-rich Sistan-Balochistan province, is pivotal for India’s regional trade aspirations. Jaishankar, echoing sentiments from a connectivity conference in Tashkent in 2021, projected the Chabahar port as a key regional transit hub, especially facilitating trade with Afghanistan. The port is also integral to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project.
INSTC: Transforming Connectivity Across Continents
The INSTC, spanning 7,200 kilometers, represents a multi-mode transport project aimed at facilitating freight movement among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe. Jaishankar’s discussions with Bazrpash included exchanging views on the INSTC, highlighting India’s commitment to enhancing regional connectivity and trade.
Agreements and Cooperation
The meeting between Bazrpash and Jaishankar culminated in a significant development – a final agreement to develop the Chabahar port. Bazrpash proposed the formation of a joint transportation committee to expand cooperation between the two nations. This committee is envisioned to activate transit capacities and leverage the North-South corridor for mutual benefit.
Expressing India’s readiness for fresh investments in transportation and transit in Iran, Jaishankar extended an invitation to Bazrpash to visit India. This commitment reflects the desire for sustained collaboration and the further development of bilateral ties.
Presidential Audience: Conveying Greetings and Seeking Guidance
Jaishankar also had the privilege of calling on Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi, where he conveyed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings. During this audience, Jaishankar apprised the Iranian President of his productive discussions with Iranian ministers. The exchange highlighted the significance India places on its relationship with Iran and sought the President’s guidance for the continued development of ties.
Looking Forward: Diplomacy in Action
As India and Iran solidify their collaboration on critical projects like the Chabahar port and the INSTC, the diplomatic efforts of Jaishankar underscore the strategic importance of fostering robust ties. The discussions not only address immediate challenges but also set the stage for long-term cooperation, contributing to regional stability and global connectivity. As the international community grapples with various issues, India’s proactive engagement reaffirms its commitment to diplomatic solutions and collaborative efforts for a better, interconnected world.