Home Editorial Editorial: Pakistan and the Chabahar Port

Editorial: Pakistan and the Chabahar Port

India’s investment in the Iranian port raises questions over the viability of Pakistan’s Gwadar port

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File photo of the Chabahar Port. Atta Kenare—AFP

India this week signed a 10-year contract with Iran to develop and operate the Chabahar port, prompting the U.S. to warn that the deal “was not exempted from U.S. sanctions” while stopping short of announcing any plans to impose them. Pakistan, naturally, has reacted negatively to the $500 million deal, which facilitates India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia through Iran while bypassing Pakistan’s ports in Gwadar and Karachi. Some strategic experts see nefarious designs behind the development, warning Delhi is encircling Islamabad and developing a “threat” platform in Afghanistan. They further claim Pakistan faces isolation if the rest of the world accepts the deal.

In 2018, India started developing the Chabahar port on Iran’s southeastern coast along the Gulf of Oman but its pace was slowed by the threat of U.S. sanctions. According to India’s shipping minister, the significance of Chabahar Port “transcends its role as a mere conduit between India and Iran; it serves as a vital trade artery connecting India with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.” Additionally, the port provides India a shorter route to Europe, reducing travel by 15 days compared to the Suez Canal route.

Iran’s minister of roads and urban development, meanwhile, said Indian Ports Global Limited would invest $120 million in the port, with an additional $250 million in financing, bringing the contract’s value to $370 million. According to Indian officials, the port has already shipped 2.5 million tons of wheat and 2,000 tons of pulses from India to Afghanistan. The country has also made no secret of hoping to compete with China, which has invested in Pakistan’s Gwadar port with similar aims.

While Pakistan has yet to formally comment on the India-Iran deal, Tehran’s president offered to facilitate Islamabad’s participation in it during an official visit earlier this year. With ties between the neighboring nations hampered by the disputed region of Kashmir, it is unlikely this offer would be taken up or find much support within Pakistani power-circles.

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