Ports of Chabahar and Gwadar are shown at the bottom left-hand corner of the map. registan.net
Iran announced on Sunday the plans to transform the southeastern port city of Chabahar into the hub of the country’s petro-chemical production and export. The National Iranian Petrochemical Company (NIPC) will build plants for production of 15 million tons of petrochemicals in the Free Trade Zone of Chabahar. Iran currently exports some $14 billion worth of petrochemicals a year from its Persian Gulf ports.
20 million cubic meters of natural gas per day and 3.6 million tons of ethane per year are required as the feedstock for the production, and will be transferred to Chabahar via 28-inch pipelines linking Iran’s South Pars gas field in Assaluyeh to Chabahar. [SHANA, 14 August].
Chabahar is strategically located on the Gulf of Oman next to the Pakistani port of Gwadar at the entrance of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Chabahar and Gwadar are located in the greater Baluchistan region that encompasses Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan, Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Afghanistan’s Nimrooz and southern Helmand provinces.
With vast mineral resources found throughout Afghanistan, with estimated worth of three trillion dollars, Chabahar and Gwadar can serve as seaports linking landlocked Afghanistan to India and China that are expected to be the main consumers of Afghan minerals that incudes copper, iron, gold and lithium among others.
Ironically, India financed the expansion of Chabahar into a commercial port in direct competition to Chinese financed Gwadar long before the Afghan mineral wealth became the hot topic in the emerging new great game involving the two Asian economic giants and other world powers. It is now possible and quite probable that both ports will be in play for transporting Afghan minerals. Chabahar serving as the prefer port for minerals extracted in northern and western Afghanistan, including the iron ore deposits in Bamiyan, copper deposits in Herat, and lithium and rare earth deposits in Nimrooz and southern Helmand. Gwadar can serve as the preferred port for the gold deposits in Pakistani Baluchistan, and other vast mineral deposits in eastern and southern Afghanistan.