What is 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’s located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran’s southern coast.
- The Chabahar port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries.
- Chabahar is 700 km (430 mi) away from Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan and Baluchistan province.
- Development of the port was first proposed in 1973 by the last Shah of Iran, though development was delayed by the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
- India and Iran first agreed to plans to further develop Shahid Beheshti port in 2003 but did not do so on account of sanctions against Iran.
Significance of Chabahar Port for India
India has been a key player in the development and operation of Chabahar Port. The Indian government has invested in the port’s infrastructure and has been involved in upgrading its facilities to make it a viable transit route for Indian goods bound for Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Chabahar Port holds significant geopolitical importance for India for several reasons:
Access to Afghanistan and Central Asia:
Chabahar Port serves as a strategic gateway for India to access landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. It provides an alternative and more direct trade route to the region compared to traditional routes that pass through Pakistan. This access is vital for India’s economic and strategic interests in the region.
Diversification of Trade Routes:
By circumventing Pakistan, which has historically imposed restrictions on India’s trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, Chabahar Port diversifies India’s trade routes. This reduces India’s dependence on a single corridor and enhances its trade resilience.
The Port allows India to access energy resources in Iran and the broader region. It opens up opportunities for India to invest in Iran’s energy sector and secure a more stable energy supply.
Counterbalancing China’s Influence:
Chabahar Port is strategically located near the Chinese-operated Gwadar Port in Pakistan, which is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). India’s presence in Chabahar serves as a counterbalance to China’s growing influence in the region and allows India to protect its interests in the Indian Ocean.
Strengthening Regional Connectivity:
India has invested in the development of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, which will connect Chabahar Port to Afghanistan and further into Central Asia. This infrastructure project enhances regional connectivity and promotes economic integration among countries in the region.
Humanitarian and Development Assistance:
Chabahar Port facilitates India’s humanitarian and development assistance efforts in Afghanistan. It enables the transport of goods and supplies for reconstruction projects and humanitarian aid, contributing to stability and development in Afghanistan.
Strategic Presence in the Indian Ocean:
Chabahar Port extends India’s maritime reach and presence in the Indian Ocean. It bolsters India’s maritime capabilities and supports its efforts to ensure maritime security and freedom of navigation in the region.
Enhanced Maritime Trade:
Chabahar Port offers India an alternative maritime route to reach markets in the Persian Gulf, the broader Middle East, and beyond. It reduces transit time and shipping costs for Indian goods.
India’s engagement in Chabahar provides it with geopolitical leverage in the region. It allows India to engage with Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries and contribute to regional stability.