Home Editorial Editorial: Indo-Iran Ties and Pakistan

Editorial: Indo-Iran Ties and Pakistan

Iran’s Chabahar Port can greatly facilitate regional connectivity if ties between Pakistan and India improve

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File photo of the Chabahar Port. Atta Kenare—AFP

After a recent bilateral “mishap” that saw Pakistan and Iran violating each other’s sovereignty and taking a brief “break” in diplomatic ties, it is necessary to examine how the situation might have been shaped by Tehran’s ties with Delhi. India already has special facilities at the Iranian Chabahar Port, in development since 2016, to boost connectivity and trade ties. Strategically important for both countries, Chabahar has been the focal point of the Indo-Iran equation in recent years. In a visit to Tehran earlier this year, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar inked a long-term deal to further develop the Chabahar Port.

The 2024 agreement followed calls from India for Tehran to commit to a longer agreement to encourage investment, but faced delays due to Tehran’s discomfort over an arbitration clause in the original 2016 deal that called for disputes to be settled in foreign courts. Talks between the two states also covered “perspectives on the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC),” highlighting the strategic and economic significance of the project. The new deal was considered especially vital, as three of the four phases of the project have been pending since 2017, despite India allocating $12 million of its annual budget for it in 2023.

For Iran, Chabahar Port aims to reduce the effects of Western sanctions, while for India it provides land access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Chabahar is also Iran’s only deep-sea port with direct access to the Indian Ocean, facilitating India’s strategy to bypass Pakistan for access to Central Asian markets and counterbalance the growing Sino-Pakistan cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative. If ties between Pakistan and India improve, the project can also support Islamabad, though the chances of this appear less likely after the recent unrest between Tehran and Islamabad.

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