In his very first visit of Iran since taking office, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a dozen agreements with Iran and Afghanistan to boost trade relations. The most noteworthy of the agreements signed between Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is India’s investment of $500 million into developing Iran’s Chabahar port, considered an important step leading to Afghanistan and onward to Central Asia. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also later joined the two leaders to sign a trilateral transit agreement. Negotiations were underway to build the port but international sanctions on Iran were the main hurdles in finalizing the agreement. Four months after lifting international sanctions on Iran, Modi reached India to seal the agreement to develop the port. According to the agreement India would be allowed to build and run the strategic port, roads and train network would be developed in Afghanistan and Iran to pave the way for trade via the port.
Chabahar port is situated about 100 kilometre from the Gawadar port of Pakistan, which is being developed by Chinese government under CPEC. The CPEC is the leading cause for India pushing hard for the development of the port to counter regional influence. Via this port India is hoping to approach not only Iran and Afghanistan but also other land-locked Central Asian countries for trade purposes bypassing Pakistan.
Think tanks in Pakistan need to take into accounts the strategic development in Iran and its impact on Gawadar port. The work on CPEC projects need to be accelerated. Pakistan still holds advantage as land routes through Pakistan are most feasible for land-locked Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Pakistan should not delay to capture the international market.
Land routes via Pakistan most feasible for Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, CPEC projects need to be accelerated.