The possible strategic agreement between Iran and China presents concerns not only for the United States, but also for one of the premier powers of the Asian continent: India.
On a visit to Tehran in May 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a memorandum of understanding with Tehran in a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to develop the strategic Iranian seaport of Chabahar.
Chabahar, located in southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan on the Sea of Oman serves as Iran’s only oceanic port and its closest to international waters in the Indian Ocean.
The port consists of two nodes (terminals), each of which has five berths built in an area of 485 hectares.
The $1.6 billion memorandum of understanding between Iran and India was also signed to build the Chabahar-Zahedan railway, which was slated to link India to Afghanistan, as well as Central Asia, through Iran.
Needless to say, Pakistan has for a long time denied India to use its soil as a transit route.
India saw signing the Chabahar agreement with Iran as a counterbalance to China’s action in signing an agreement with Pakistan to develop Gwadar port in 2015.
The Gwadar port is situated only 350 km by land and 140 km by sea from the port of Chabahar.
But more than four years after signing the Tehran-New Delhi memorandum, the Chabahar development project has seen no progress even as the news of a 25-year Iran-China strategic partnership arrived recently.
Much to New Delhi’s dismay, on July 16, Kheirollah Khademi, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development, confirmed the earlier reports that India had been dropped from the Chabahar-Zahedan railway project, citing funding delays.
Although Iranian officials have not cited the strategic agreement with China as a reason for excluding India from the Chabahar project, political commentators are well aware of the increasing tensions and rivalry between India and China.
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