After China’s ‘deal’ Iran drops India from Chabahar project

New Delhi: Iran has dropped India from a railway project linking the Chabahar port to Zahedan city, reportedly due to delay of funds.

India and Iran had signed an agreement to construct a 628-kilometre railway line four years ago. The project extends railway line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan.

The railway project which was, originally, to be undertaken by the Iranian Railways and the Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON), was believed to be a key component of the trilateral agreement between Iran, India and Afghanistan.The Iranian government has reportedly decided to go ahead with the construction on its own.

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Iran’s Transport and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami inaugurated the track-laying process last week for the line, according to a report by The Hindu. The line will be extended to Zaranj across the border in Afghanistan.

The country would use approximately $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund and the the entire project would be completed by March 2022 without India’s assistance, the officials said.

This comes amid China finalising a 25-year, $400 billion strategic partnership deal with Iran. The agreement will, reportedly, see Beijing invest significantly into Iran’s infrastructure, maufacturing, transport and energy projects. Iran will be reciprocating the continued provision of oil and gas supplies with a heavy discounted price.

Chabahar is the only seaport Iran has in its energy-rich Sistan-Balochistan province by the Gulf of Oman and consists of two ports with five berths each. The port is a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port which is being developed with the Chinese investment.

The port, inaugurated in December 2017, had opened a new strategic route connecting Iran with India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. In December 2017, India took over the operations of port and commissioned the second port this January, thereby marking entry into a foreign land.

The stand-off at Galwan Valley saw 20 Indian Army personnel killed. Following deaths, Sino-Indian relations are currently heavily strained. With this situation, Beijing’s increasing influence in Tehran, may have severe repercussions to India’s own relationship with Iran. 

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