Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Chabahar Port: India’s Gateway to Central Asia via Iran


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Chabahar Port

Mains level: Not Much



  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent visit to Iran featured crucial discussions with Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development, aiming to establish a long-term cooperation framework for the strategically vital Chabahar port.

Chabahar Port: A Strategic Gem

  • Location: Chabahar Port is strategically positioned at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman in Iran.
  • Deepwater Port: It stands as Iran’s first deepwater port, holding a pivotal position on global oceanic trade routes.
  • Geographic Positioning: Situated west of Iran’s border with Pakistan, it competes with China’s Gwadar Port, located to the east.
  • Strategic Importance: Chabahar Port holds immense strategic importance for both Iran and India.
  • Mitigating Western Sanctions: It allows Iran to mitigate the impact of Western sanctions.
  • Alternative Trade Route: For India, it offers an alternative trade route, bypassing Pakistan’s restrictions on land access for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

India’s Engagement with Chabahar

  • Initiating Ties: India’s engagement with Chabahar dates back to 2002 when discussions commenced between Iranian and Indian officials.
  • Strategic Cooperation: A roadmap for strategic cooperation was signed during President Khatami’s 2003 visit to India, with Chabahar as a key project.
  • Counteracting BRI: The project gained prominence for India as it sought alternative trade routes amid China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the development of Gwadar Port in Pakistan.
  • Access to Central Asia: Chabahar’s significance further escalated with India’s ambitions to access Central Asia and Russia.

Development of Chabahar Port

  • Two Distinct Ports: Chabahar Port comprises two distinct ports: Shahid Beheshti and Shahid Kalantari.
  • Indian Investment: India’s primary investment is directed towards the Shahid Beheshti port.
  • Trilateral Agreement: In April 2016, India, Iran, and Afghanistan signed a trilateral agreement.
  • Rapid Development: India’s Shipping Ministry rapidly worked towards developing the port.
  • Operational Milestones: In December 2017, the first phase of Shahid Beheshti port was inaugurated, facilitating the movement of Indian wheat to Afghanistan.
  • IPGL’s Role: India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) played a pivotal role in the port’s operations.
  • Phased Expansion: The Shahid Beheshti port is undergoing development in four phases, ultimately reaching a capacity of 82 million tons per year with 32 jetties.

Challenges and Delays

  • Geopolitical Hurdles: Geopolitical complexities, particularly Iran’s relationship with the US, have contributed to project delays.
  • US-Iran Relations: The fluctuating US-Iran relationship has posed challenges, especially after the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018.
  • Sanctions Impact: India faced challenges in finding international suppliers under sanctions.
  • Afghanistan Dynamics: The situation in Afghanistan also affected India’s relations with Kabul but gradually improved.
  • Recent Developments: In 2022, India reopened its embassy in Kabul and allocated funds for the Chabahar port project.
  • Continued Wheat Exports: India plans to send 20,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan through the port in 2023.

Future Outlook

  • US-Iran Ties: The pace of Chabahar port development remains tied to US-Iran relations and regional dynamics.
  • Ongoing Challenges: Challenges include susceptibility to American sanctions, uncertainties in Afghanistan, and compatibility with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Strategic Diplomacy: Active diplomacy, efficient implementation, and operations are vital for overcoming these challenges and maintaining Chabahar’s status as a viable transit hub and a crucial link between Iran and India.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch