Chabahar Trade Corridor and Iran-India Relations

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Since India became the partner and invester of the Chabahar Port Development Project, New Delhi administration has adopted a serious mission to increase its influence in Afghanistan. The United States of America (USA) exempted the the development of the port in question from the sanctions imposed on Iran on the basis of supporting economic stability in Afghanistan and helping the country’s development.

On the other hand, while India made investments on the project in question as being an ally of the USA, on the other side of the Arebian Sea, China and Pakistan were running the massive Gwadar Port Development Project. However, the domination of Taliban in Afghanistan has caused Indian investors to to face with serious difficulties about staying and investing in this country. At the same time, Indian and Iranian business people tended to be cautious with the effect of new developments and showed a reluctant attitude to continue shopping for goods from Milak, Dugarun and Mahirud border gates via Afghanistan.

The Chabahar Port has many features that attract attention at the global and regional level. Chabahar is the only port of Iran which has direct accessing to the open seas and oceans. The geographical proximity of the port to countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and India and being an important transit center in the North-South International Corridor gave Chabahar the potential to become one of the most important trade centers in the region. Besides, the port has a possibility of increasing the trade in Central and South Asia.[1]

The project of creating a transit route with the way of developing the Chabahar Port is named as the Chabahar Agreement. The port project which was signed in June 2016, by the leaders of the countries in order to create a triple corridor in the region takes its place among the joint ventures between India, Iran and Afghanistan. Along with the aforementioned agreement based on development of the port, the main point is that it will provide a transition and an access for India to Afghanistan via Iran. The Chabahar Port and the Iran transit route give New Delhi advantage for India to bypass Pakistan in its access to Afghanistan. Therefore, Pakistan will be one of the countries which has been affected from the Iran-India-Afghanistan Trilateral Trade Agreement.[2]

On the other side, with the withdrawal of USA from Afghanistan and with India’s regional rivals’ gaining their strenght in Afghanistan, including China and Pakistan, India realised that it needs to maintain its strategic relationship with Iran.

The presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the presidential ceremony of Iranian President Ibrahim Reisi demonstrates New Delhi’s willingness to maintain this strategic relationship. So much so that Indian media, in their news about the President’s inauguration ceremony, included the opening of a new page in Iran-India relations. Thus, it is possible to say that Chabahar Port is an important variable in India’s strategic relations with Pakistan and China and in shaping the regional balance. In this context, the Brookings Institution, in its research report titled “India’s strategic and economic interests in Iran”, has characterized the development of Chabahar Port as the cornerstone of India’s multi-layered strategy regarding Iran.[3]

Modi administration said that Chabahar Port will be the basis of progress for Iran, India, Afghanistan and many Central Asian countries. In addition, Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) see the port as a gateway to the Indian Ocean. Indian authorities state that Chabahar Port, approximately 1,000 km from Kandla Port and 1,400 km from Mumbai, facilitates access to the sea route for shipping and trade.[4] However, it is obvious that the route in question is unstable. Moreover, it is unclear when stability will be achieved on this route. For this reason, the Middle Line is a corridor that should be considered for both India and the states of the region.

On the other hand, the cooperation that will be formed through the development of Gwadar Port and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has increased the concerns of how the partnership of China and Pakistan, two main rivals with whom it has disagreements in India, will affect it. In this case, India’s investment in Chabahar Port attracts attention as a key strategy to expand its regional market presence, especially to weaken China-Pakistan cooperation and strengthen its superpower status by using the India-Iran alliance.[5]

The presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan may affect the continuation of India’s strategic projects and the attractiveness of capital in Iran. This is the reason why Tehran is trying to normalize its relations with the Taliban and pave the way for India to continue its activities in southeast Iran. Nevertheless, there are also problems in this regard. This is because although the Chabahar dimension is exempted from the sanctions against Iran, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future. On the other hand, the importance of Afghanistan and Central Asia and India’s need for access to it, the great regional rivalry between India and some other major players encourage Indian authorities to participate and invest in the Chabahar Port Project. However, due to various instability, it can be said that New Delhi will consider the Pakistan-India-Turkmenistan route in order to reach Central Asia. Despite this, the New Delhi administration is trying to balance against the China-Pakistan-based Gwadar Project by giving more weight to the Iran-Turkmenistan corridor and doubling the importance of Chabahar Port.

[1] “بندر چابهار و موازنه‌بخشی راهبردی ایران با چین و هندوستان”, Shia International News Association,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[2] “دالان تجاری چابهار در سایه طالبان”, Hamshahri Online,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[3] “چابهار، سنگ بنای هند در استراتژی نفوذ منطقه ای”, Iranian Diplomacy,, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2021).

[4] “تلاش هند برای سرعت بخشیدن به عملیاتی شدن بندر چابهار”, IRNA,, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2021).

[5] Soroush Aliasgary -Marin Ekstrom, “Chabahar Port and Iran’s Strategic Balancing With China and India”, The Diplomat,, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2021).

Dr. Seyedmohammad Seyedi ASL
Seyedmohammad Seyedi Asl, 2008 yılında Urmiye Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Klimatoloji Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. 2012 yılında Tahran Üniversitesi Coğrafya Fakültesi Jeopolitik Bölümü’nde savunduğu “Explanation of Geopolitical Relationships of Iran and Azerbaijan Republic with Constructivism Approach” başlıklı teziyle yüksek lisans derecesini almaya haz kazanmıştır. 2021 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu “İran’ın Dış Politikasında Şia Mezhep Faktörün Etkisi ve Kullanımı: Jeopolitik Bir Değerlendirme” başlıklı teziyle doktora eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Türkçe, Farsça ve İngilizce bilen Asl’ın bu dillerde yayınlanmış çok sayıda akademik çalışması bulunmaktadır.