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The Economic Times: Why this Iran port is important (Cahbar occupied Balochistan)
An India-operated port in Iran's Chabahar would open a gateway for the country to Afghanistan and Central Asia. A look into why the port is of strategic importance:
The decision to ink MoU with Iran for expansion of Chabahar Port, after a long delay, will finally open up major commercial and strategic opportunities for India.
In the absence of transit through Pakistan, Iran is India's gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Russiaand beyond and the Chabahar port is the key element in that. The location of the port has yet another significance. It is located barely 72 km away from the deep-sea Gwadar port.
Once functional, Chabahar will further undermine Gwadar. While Pak & China both had high hopes from Gwadar (built with Beijing's assistance), the insurgency in Balochistan is proving to be Achilles hill for both the countries.
While the Chabahar port is essentially meant for commercial purposes and provides transit route to Afghanistan, India can use the facility to monitor Pakistani & Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean Region as well as Gulf. It could be convenient location for India to monitor activities of Pakistani Navy.
Gwadar was the warm port that China has been eyeing for transportation of hydrocarbon from the Gulf region. Presence in Gwadar would have ensured China remains in close proximity of the Gulf & Indian Ocean Region.
There were plans to link Gwadar with China via rail and connect the port through Karakorum Highway and build a pipeline till Khunjerab Pass bordering Gilgit-Baltistan and Xinjiang.
Indian investment in the port would serve as a link to Delaram-Zaranj road that India built in Afghanistan. Chabahar port would give New Delhi a base to position itself after international troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
India-built Zaranj-Delaram road in Afghanistan will connect to the Chabahar port via Milak. Iran with financial aid from India is upgrading the Chabahar-Milak road.
The Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Delaram highway will open up the Indian market to Afghan farm products and other exports. It will also help combat the scourge of illicit drugs production and export and assist the trade, transport and transit network of Iran.
An Indian JV company will lease two berths in Chahbahar's Phase-I for 10 years, which could be renewed by "mutual pact". The JV will invest $85.21 m for equipping the two berths further within 12 months.