Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Rasht-Astara Railway Link


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Rasht-Astara Railway Link

Mains level: INSTC


Russia and his Iran has signed a deal to finance and build the 162 km Rasht-Astara Iranian railway, the main connection in the emerging North-South Transport Corridor.

Rasht-Astara Railway Link

  • The Rash Astra Railway is a 162-kilometer railway connecting Rasht (Iran) and Astara (Azerbaijan) on the border.
  • It is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and will significantly diversify global traffic flows.
  • The railway will facilitate connections between Russian ports on the Baltic Sea and Iranian ports in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.


  • The INSTC is a 7,200-kilometer Multi-Mode Transit System connecting India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • It promotes transportation cooperation among member states and includes ship, rail, and road routes.
  • Membership has expanded to include additional countries, and observer states and Baltic countries have expressed interest in joining.

Significance of INSTC for India

  • Central Asia trade: India has invested in the Chabahar Port in Iran, which serves as a doorway for trade with Central Asian countries.
  • Extended connection: INSTC offers potential connections to the Baltic, Nordic, and Arctic regions.
  • Bypassing Pakistan: INSTC provides an alternate route for India to connect with Central Asia, bypassing obstacles in Pakistan.
  • Fastest freight: It reduces transit time by 40% and freight costs by 30% compared to the Suez Canal route.
  • Alternative to Suez: Russia claims the project could ultimately rival the Suez Canal in terms of trade flows.

Challenges of INSTC

  • Challenges include limited financial support from major international institutions due to US sanctions on Iran.
  • Harmonization of tariffs and customs, increased private sector involvement, and improved informational connectivity are necessary for success.


  • More financing, cooperation, political will, and strategic planning are required to realize the full benefits of INSTC.
  • Addressing demand deficits and enhancing informational connectivity are crucial.
  • Collaboration and the establishment of industrial parks and special economic zones can contribute to the corridor’s development and commercial value.


Key terminologies

Multi-Mode Transit System: A system that integrates multiple modes of transportation, such as ship, rail, and road, for efficient movement of goods.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): An agreement reached in 2015 between Iran and world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Suez Canal: A major global trade route connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Chabahar Port: A port in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, providing India with access to Central Asian countries.

Baltic Countries: Countries located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, including Latvia and Estonia.


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