Iran has decided to go ahead full throttle with the construction of a railway line from Chabahar port to Zahedan -- along the border with Afghanistan -- without any funding from India due to pussyfooting by New Delhi.
The setback has come at a time Iran is looking at a large canvas of a 25-year economic and security partnership with China worth $400 billion. The partnership would enhance Chinese footprint in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects.
In exchange, as a sop, China would receive regular and heavily discounted supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. The footnote to the agreement also mentions deepening of military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in the region.
Considering that Iran has been an important strategic ally of New Delhi, the deal with China could dent India’s prospects in the region, especially at a time when its relations with Beijing have touched a new low in the aftermath of the Galwan standoff.
“India dropped from Chahbar Port deal. This is the diplomacy of the Modi government that won laurels even without getting the work done, China worked quietly but gave them a better deal. Big loss for India. But you can’t ask questions!” senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted citing the report in The Hindu.
The port-rail project was part of India’s pledge to give shape to the trilateral agreement with Afghanistan and Iran to build an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has been dropped four years after the project was finalised.
The deal was finalised during PM Modi’s visit to Tehran in 2016, after he signed an agreement with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Under this, Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) had promised assistance to the project besides funding worth $1.6 billion, says a report published in The Hindu.
However, the work never took off as the United States imposed sanctions on Iran. But now the entire project will be completed by March 22 and for that $400 million will be sanctioned by the Iranian National Development Fund. (Media report compilation)