Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Iran drops India from Chabahar project; INC slams govt

The Indian National Congress (INC) today critiqued the Narendra Modi government after Iran dropped India from the Chabahar rail project. INC spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi wrote on Twitter that the development was a big loss for India while taking a dig at the Modi government, saying, “But you can’t ask questions!”

Singhvi tweeted: “India dropped from Chahbar Port deal. This is the diplomacy of the Modi Govt 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!”

The Indian government had inked a deal with Iran four years ago to build a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the Iran-Afghanistan border.

The track-laying process for the 628 kilometre long rail line was launched by Iran’s Transport and Urban Development Minister Mohammad Eslami last week. The rail line will ultimately be extended to Zaranj in Afghanistan.

The entire project would be completed by March 2022, and the Iranian Railways will proceed without assistance from India and will use approximately $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund, media reported.

Iran’s move to drop the partnership with India comes amid its finalisation of a sweeping 25-year economic and security partnership with China worth $ 400 billion. The partnership would vastly expand Chinese presence in banking, telecommunications, ports, railways and dozens of other projects.

In exchange, China would receive a regular — and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted — supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. An 18-page document detailing the proposed agreement also describes deepening military cooperation, potentially giving China a foothold in the region.

Considering that Iran has been an important strategic ally for New Delhi, the deal could hurt India’s prospects in the region, especially at a time when its relations with China have soured further in the aftermath of the recent border standoff.

The agreement could hurt India’s prospects in the region. The railway line was finalised in May 2016 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran to sign the Chabahar agreement with Iranian President Rouhani and Afghanistan President Ghani.

It was part of India’s commitment to the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to build an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Government-owned Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) had promised to provide all services, superstructure work and financing for the project (around $ 1.6 billion).

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