Home Global Village Chabahar Port: The end of Gwadar?

Chabahar Port: The end of Gwadar?

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Dr. Zafar Jaspal |

India, Iran, and Afghanistan have been laboring to establish a new transit route. The new transit route would link Afghanistan and Iran with India through Chabahar Port. The port would facilitate a landlocked Afghanistan and also open a trade route for Indian goods and products to Afghanistan and Central Asia. With the construction of a new transit route, India would not only bypass Pakistan but also realize its decades-old dream to encircle Pakistan.

Islamabad needs to initiate a productive and result-oriented negotiation process for enhancing it’s economic, political and diplomatic relations with Tehran

New Delhi has systematically cultivated its strategic and economic relations with Tehran since the beginning of the twenty-first century. India and Iran signed a defense pact in November 2003 and revised it in 2009.

Neither the United States nor other Western countries solicit India to honor United Nations Security Council directives or sanctions levied against Iran. New Delhi and Kabul signed the strategic partnership with the connivance of United States in 2011. Since then, Afghanistan and Pakistan bilateral relations have been deteriorating.

Read more: Modi revisits Iran ties

Strategically, Chabahar port is very significant. It is located in the Sistan-Balochistan province near Strait of Hormuz and Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan. The Indians consider it as a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia. In May 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would invest $500m to develop and operate strategically important Iran’s Chabahar port.

New Delhi promised to invest in the Iranian railway for laying railway lines connecting Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Indeed, the new trade route would assist India to get a foothold in the region. The transformation in Global Politics and cementing the strategic partnership between India and United States has not obstructed the former relations with Iran.

The leadership rhetorical support for improving bilateral relations needs practical initiative(s) for sustainable cordial bilateral relations between the neighboring states

On August 6, 2017, the Indian Union minister for transport, highways, and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari announced that Chabahar port would be operationalised by 2018. He stated: “Civil construction work has started there. We have finalized tenders worth Rs3.8 billion for equipment out of Rs 6bn and once the port becomes operational it will become a growth engine.”

Read more: Tehran hits Delhi’s underbelly as Modi hugs Trump and Netanyahu

India built the 220-kilometre road in the Nimroz province of Afghanistan and now planning to extend this road to Chabahar. Interestingly, the Indian ruling elite is giving an impression that it would be able to develop the port within stipulated time. Whereas; Western manufacturers are shying away from supplying equipment for Chabahar port.

They are afraid of the probability that the United States may reimpose sanctions on Iran. The Trump Administration has already expressed its concerns over the Iranian nuclear program. It gave an impression that it could quash the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action known commonly as the Iran deal or Iran nuclear deal.

The Iranians have confidence in the continuity of the Indian investment in Chabahar because even before the nuclear deal was reached, India was doing billions dollars trade with Iran

President Trump declared 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “the worst deal ever negotiated”. It was reported in Foreign Policy (July 2017), “the president has assembled a special team of White House aides whose sole task is to figure out a way to claim that Iran is violating the deal.” The termination of the deal would automatically reimpose sanctions against Iran.

Read more: Pakistan must outline and work to achieve its own future for…

The Iranians have confidence in the continuity of the Indian investment in Chabahar because even before the nuclear deal was reached, India was doing billions dollars trade with Iran. Ironically, Washington did not compel New Delhi to oblige the United Nations Security Council sanction imposed against Iran. However, Washington indirectly hindered the construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

The trends in the regional politics underscore that the deepening relations among India, Afghanistan, and Iran are not in the interest of Pakistan. Admittedly, it’s difficult for Islamabad to normalize its bilateral relations with India. Nevertheless, Islamabad could engage positively Kabul and further improve its bilateral relations with Tehran.

Pakistani traders could benefit from the Iranian market by supplying rice, wheat, citrus, sugar, soybean, etc

Hence, Islamabad revisits its trade policy with neighboring countries. For instance, Iran is a big market for Pakistani agriculture products. Pakistani traders could benefit from the Iranian market by supplying rice, wheat, citrus, sugar, soybean, etc.

Read more: The Iranian threat: How can Pakistan safeguard its interests?

Islamabad needs to engage Iran constructively to defy India’s isolating strategy. The encouraging factor is that many people in both Iran and Pakistan have been stressing that the Gwadar and Chabahar ports should not be seen as rivals. The government of Pakistan is exploring the opportunities to developing links between Chabahar and Gwadar.

In May 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India would invest $500m to develop and operate strategically important Iran’s Chabahar port

On August 7, 2017, during a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani reiterated that Iran and Pakistan were strategically important to one another. He stated: “Pakistan will spare no effort to promote relations with Iran.” The leadership rhetorical support for improving bilateral relations needs practical initiative(s) for sustainable cordial bilateral relations between the neighboring states.

To conclude, constructing a new transit route through Chabahar port is an attempt by India to bypass Pakistan and also undermine China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Therefore, Islamabad needs to initiate a productive and result-oriented negotiation process for enhancing it’s economic, political and diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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  1. The task of befriending Tehran is not an easy one due to Pakistan’s historic relationship with the Saudis. So far Pakistan’s foreign policy in terms of Saudi Arabia and Iran has quite apparently not been able to make ‘national interest’ the foremost priority hence the imbalance. Creating a sense of balance in our relations with the two openly opposing forces in Tehran and Riyadh in the very complex Geo-political scenario that we witness today, is not child’s play. Great foresight coupled with serious and high level diplomacy, with the sole aim of ‘national interest’, may be the only way to achieve establishment of a trusted relationship with Tehran. And in the long run Iranians may just prove to be more trustworthy than the House of Saud.

  2. Dude….either u guys are seriously confused in economics, politics and geopolitics…..or u guys are seriously trying to confuse people of pakistan about these things….ENCIRCLE PAKISTAN? U think Afghanistan is a government? Let me make it simple for u….the day chabahar is completed….Iran is going to ignore India like a 30 years old marriage and jump on CPEC train to benefit from OBOR….plz stop confusing urself and everybody

      • and do you think India wouldn’t have put thoughts about it already and would it be easy for Iran to ignore after getting paid for such a huge transit route wouldnt be any deals already done by India before intitating this project?

    • Iran wouldn’t risk upsetting India ,and don’t forget India is the biggest importer of oil besides when the sanctions was imposed on Iran it was India who stood by Iran while rest of the world shied away with their tails between their legs and today is the same situation.

  3. The development of ports , road and railways in the region is the interest all regional countries including Pakistan because in trade there is no religion and politics , the economic interest create its own paradigm in the international politics. As the economy of the region will develop so the need of ports , road and railways . But looked at the map and the present situation :

    1. Southern Afghanistan ungovernable region , the roads and so called railways will cross hostile non Persian territory , security a deep issue here .

    2. Distance itself , anserious factor over here , first Indian goods will shipped Iran , then from Iranian land surface will cross all of Eastern Afghanistan to reach Kabul , the main city and then from their to Central Asia.
    3. It will be feasible and attractive option , the time when peace is restored Afghanistan and has stable government , Iran comes in main stream
    Of international politics.
    The peace will generate substantial momentum of commercial activities that the regional all nations will get benefits out of Karachi , Gawader or chabhar ports . The traders would have different options of routes to fir the shipment of their goods taking duly in consideration of time and cost factors and nature of goods .

    4. In the present circumstances, cost of doing business , in terms of documentation , custom clearances , security ,transportation and time so high that full potential of doing trade with Afghanistan will never be able to realised .

    India ,no matter , how much avoid Pakistan , this country is the cheapest , secure and rich with trade infrastructure and its is gateway to the world of China , Afghanistan and Central Asia goods .

    They stop getting way at the expense of Pakistan interests or at their own not dictating terms .
    As far as trade with Iran is concerned, its is on going factor , Pakistan already in exporting Iran , the volume of trade with Iran will increase with the UNO embargo .

  4. Every challenge is also an opportunity.it is the cost of doing business which will determine the future of this route.The challenge is will China use this route while it is building it’s own CPEC.If India and China will compete each other,it will easily exhaust India new found financial power.Pakistan is not neither Iran is in competition,it is all between China and India.China for global power and India for regional hegemony.

  5. Why can’t India work with Pakistan and have IPEC (India Pakistan Economic Corridor) to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia? But for that India will have to resolve the Kashmir issue, and stop its rhetoric of blaming Pakistan and trying to isolate Pakistan which is not going to happen, so might as well work with Pakistan like partners.

  6. 1)If anyone here thinks that trade through Via chahabar port will be costly and time consuming……. So sorry sir u r totally wrong with ur logic bcoz it just cost 1/3 of cost in comps to trade by road. And pakistan imposes heavy custom duties on india goods,so it has to pass from total 4 check points.
    2)Many times Pakistan used to block the trade route and used it as a bargain factor.They also do this to stop india’s trade with central asia too.
    3)India had joined Ashgabat agreement where it will get free trade route throughoit entire central Asia and will get acess to Europe and Russia (they r not part of this agreement). Which will be less time consuming for India and cost effective as early it was done through Suez canal(Trade with Europe and Russia) .And India will get rid of hurdles of Pakistan as it doesn’t wants India to trade with central Asia.
    4)And it is very important for Afghanistan as it is a land locked country to which India had made promise to give a better trade path and to develop Afghanistan (as many development projects r being run by India in Afghanistan like dams, schools, roads,electricity,hospitals,and even scholarship to Afghanistan students who wants to study in India prestigious institutions like IITs and IISCs and training to Afghan diplomats,army personnel etc). Also Afghanistan wants its dependency to be Pakistan to be over for trade via it’s route. As Pakistan uses route to control Afghanistan.
    5)In terms of geopolitical side it’s very important for India to establish good relationship with central Asian nations as well as with Iran and Afghanistan. And this trade rout is a key player in India’s ambitious project Of international North South Trade Corridor.
    5)so pls don’t feel jealous or insecure.

  7. Utter disconnect between the headline and the article itself. It seemed as if the author was about to say that the Chahbahar port will make Gawadar unfeasible. But the reality is that Gawadar is the gateway to the second most powerful nation of this world, and a small development in Xinjiang will directly connect CPEC to 3 of the 5 Central Asia states. CPEC will in effect allow Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan and diminish the little remaining geopolitical significance of that country to zero. Furthermore, when both projects are completed, Gawadar will be connected to Afghanistan at the 2 largest cities of Afghanistan (Kandahar via Chaman border and Kabul via Torkham), while Chahbahar will connect to Delaram via Zaranj, which is a small regional outpost of no significance. There is no infrastructure to connect it to major population centres, and it will be all hostile territory. CPEC will allow direct access to China, the most critical trading partner of the entire world, while Chahbahar will only cater to Indian-Afghan trade which, compared to trade volumes of China, is not even close to what is needed to support a major port. Now you be the judge. Which port is the kiss of death of which port!

  8. sitting in a loaded office,and writing such articles is of no use,come out and observe the ground realities you will come to know that you are absolutely wrong…

  9. India has every right to conduct trade and investment as it serves them. Why are we being forced to be scared of it ? Why can’t we stop blaming others for things that have never been their fault ? Pakistan has always kept a foreign policy that is anti neighbors. We only love them when we can get us aid off their refugees.
    Instead of complaining about how much investment India is pouring in Iran and Afghanistan to built infrastructure there, we should be asking ourselves why are we not doing the same ?
    Why we still have only one real sea port ? India surely did not stop us from developing Gawadar, Ormara, Jewani, Pasni, and Thatta ports.
    Why is it have to be bad thing that some of our neighbors are developing good relations with each other? What is so scary about it ?
    Let’s put an end to the self exclusion policy and begin a policy of collaboration where a port in Iran or India won’t be seen as a threat but rather an opportunity to increase trade and develop new trade routes.
    Is it really that difficult to do ?

  10. Dear brothers, first we leave our enimity , and start living like brothers, these politicians divide us,lets start loving each other which usher in prosperity for now and for future

  11. I appreciate your gesture, trade, business and development has it’s own dynamic, we must respect each others efforts, and should further seek deriving benefits by joining each others ventures for mutual benefits rather than, thinking of mutual destruction.

  12. We must not forget that India has to pay $6 billion to Iran for the petroleum that has been happily consumed by Indians during the previous embargo on Iran. The restrictions on Iran are very convenient for india because they “purchase” petroleum and “cannot “ pay because of restrictions on banking channels. Now, Iran is trying to get the money owed by india. The construction on Chahbahar is part of that payment. Whatever Iran thinks or does will not be a threat to Pakistan. Unless Pakistan does not behave foolishly.

  13. Pakistan has nothing to trade… cost of production is too high and quality is poor… we r just importing and distributing in this country.!
    Don’t worry let them do what they r doing…

  14. Article ignores the fact that Cpec and gawadar port are far more strategically important than chabahar. One one hand where chabahar commects india to iran and afghanistan to central asia, gawadar is a deep sea port that cam harbor far more heavier ships than chabahar. More over iran has shown intent to be a part of cpec. Chabahar may be stratiically important in some aspects but it is definitely not a kiss of death for gawadar. The articles lacks wide prespective.



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