Iran Chabahar Rail Project Initiated Without India

Iran Chabahar Rail Project Initiated Without India

The Chabahar Railway line project of Iran was recently initiated without Indian aid, with which it signed an agreement for the construction. In the process, Iran struck up a partnership elsewhere which might have implications for India as well.

Crux of the Matter

Initiation Without Aid?
By initiating the project without Indian aid, Iran neglected the agreement the two countries had signed in 2016. In its statement, the Iranian government claimed delay in funding and initiation from the Indian side as the reasons for its step. However, it added, that India can join at a “later date” if willing.

The development came at a time when Iran is close to signing a $400 billion agreement with China for the next 25 years.

What Was India’s Deal?
In 2016, a deal was agreed between Indian Railways Construction Ltd (IRCON) and the Iranian Railways as a part of a “trilateral agreement” between India, Iran, and Afghanistan.

According to the agreement, IRCON was to facilitate the construction of a railway line between the Chabahar port and Zahedan, which lies near the Afghanistan border. The aim of the deal was to connect to Central Asia through an “alternate trading route”.

What Went Wrong?
Even though Indian engineers made several visits to the place, the funding and the project itself were never initiated. In 2018, Minister of External Affairs Dr. Jaishankar had claimed that Iran was delaying the project by changing the “terms of agreement” multiple times.

Another cause for the delay is being reported as the fear of US sanctions. India has already stopped purchasing oil from Iran after the US levied sanctions on it, and claimed to impose similar measures on any country dealing with Iran.

The US had removed sanctions from the Chabahar deal, but the equipment supplies were reportedly anxious over possible steps taken against them by it. Consequently, Iran has started the project, initially using $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund, and expects to finish the project by 2022.

Chinese Angle
Iran and China are close to agreeing on a $400 billion agreement for 25 years. The deal would enhance “banking, telecommunications, ports, railways” in Iran, which in return would provide “heavily discounted” oil to China for the next 25 years. The project is reportedly a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through which it aims to strengthen its influence in the Eurasian region.

Chinese influence in the Chabahar port is expected to increase. In 2019, Iran had stated that its Chabahr port can “complement” the Gwadar port, which lies in Pakistan but functions under the control of China. Iran had also offered China a role in the Bandar-e-Jask port, lying 350 km from Chabahar.

India-Iran History

  • India and Iran collaborated in the 1990s to combat Taliban terrorism.
  • India was among the foremost nations to ban The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie after the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued “fatwa” to kill Rushdie and ban the book.
  • 1995: Iran supported India against the sanctions of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Kashmir issue.
  • Iran was the 2nd largest oil supplier to India. However, India stopped the supply in 2011, and has stopped again since 2019 after the US sanctions on Iran.
  • 2010: Iranian leader Khameini incited Indian Muslims to separate Kashmir. In return, India lodged a formal complaint to the Iranian ambassador.
  • 2013: Iran detained an Indian ship carrying oil in the Persian Gulf, and cited the move as “technical and non-political”.
  • The Samjhauta Express is a bi-weekly train that runs between Delhi and Attari in India and Lahore in Pakistan. The word Samjhauta means “agreement”, “accord” and “compromise” in both Hindi and Urdu. As of 2019, the train has been cancelled until further notice due to escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.
  • The name Chabahar is a shortened form of Chahar Bahar. Chahar Bahar is made of the Persian words chahar, meaning four; and bahar meaning spring. Hence, it means a place where all four seasons of the year are spring time.
  • Ircon International Limited is an engineering and construction organisation, specialized in transport infrastructure. The PSU was established in 1976, by the Government of India. Its primary charter was the construction of railway projects in India and abroad. Ircon has since diversified into other transport and infrastructure segments and with its expanded scope of operations around the world.

India's Brawny Response to UN & Iran Over Comments on CAA, Delhi Violence

UN body filed a plea against CAA in the Supreme Court of India. Moreover, Iran commented on violence in Delhi. In turn, India gave a strong response to UNHRC and Iran over their interference in the internal matters of India.

Crux of the Matter

World and India
Recently passed Acts of India, CAA and Abrogation of Article 370 have drawn international attention and are being questioned on the basis of democratic values. There have been persistent protests against CAA, which took a violent turn in Delhi in the past few days. Pro and anti CAA groups clash began the violence and it resulted in the death of around 40 people and injured hundreds of people.

The European Union had attempted to shed some light on the Act and questioned it from the lens of Human Rights. But after the Delhi riots, Iran also jumped into twitter politics and commented on the current scenarios of India. However, India responded very clearly over its stand on the matters saying it is India’s internal matter.

The United States President Donald Trump on his visit to India said that Prime Minister Modi had told him that he (Modi) wants people to have religious freedom. He further added that it is up to India what actions should be taken over its internal matters.

India and United Nations
Considering CAA as a discriminatory act based on the religion UN body led by Michelle Bachelet Jeria, UN High Commissioner for human rights filed a plea against CAA in the Supreme Court of India. UN filed the plea on the ground of Amicus Curiae, where the third party has a right to intervene in the matter by virtue of the mandate to protect and promote human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) appreciated and accepted the “stated purpose of the CAA” to protect people facing atrocities but have questioned the exclusion of persecuted Muslims from it.

The citizenship Amendment Act is an internal matter of India and Concerns the sovereign rights of the Indian Parliaments to make laws. We strongly believe that no foreign party has any locus standi on issues pertaining to India’s sovereignty.

– Ministry of External Affairs

“We are clear that the CAA is constitutionally valid and complies with all requirements of our Constitutional values. It is reflective of our long-standing national commitment with respect to human rights issues arising from the tragedy of the partition of India,” the Ministry added further.

India and Iran
India-Iran bilateral relations are at a very steady and progressive pace for the past few years. Despite US sanctions on Iran, India has maintained a very stable relationship with Iran in trade and other sectors. Iran has always refrained from getting involved in the internal matters of India, but the Delhi violence lured Iran to make a comment on the situation. It must be noted that Iran was the first Islamic state to lift sanctions from India in 1994. These sanctions were imposed because of the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Iran expressed its discontent over the incident of riots in Delhi. Javad Zarif, Minister of External Affairs of Iran further added, “For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India. We urge Indian authorities to ensure the well-being of ALL Indians & not let ‘senseless’ thuggery prevail.”

India did not appreciate Iran’s comment and summoned the Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni and expressed discontent over Iran’s comments on India’s internal issues. Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar from India said, “It was conveyed that his selective and tendentious characterization of recent events in Delhi is not acceptable. We don’t accept such comments from a country like Iran.” Dilip Sinha, Former Indian diplomat to Iran said, “It is difficult to explain Iran (foreign minister’s) statement except that Tehran feels compelled to make statements based on their civilizational prerogative.”


India-Iran relations
India–Iran relations refers to the bilateral relations between the countries India and Iran. Independent India and Iran established diplomatic relations on 15 March 1950. During much of the Cold War period, relations between the Republic of India and the erstwhile Imperial State of Iran suffered due to their different political interests—non-aligned India fostered strong military links with the Soviet Union, while Iran enjoyed close ties with the United States. More Info