Tuesday, November 1, 2011

India to Build Iran-Afghan Rail Link

India to Transport Iron Ore from Hajigak to Chabahar - Circumventing Pakistan’s Gwadar

In a bold move to link mineral-rich regions of Afghanistan to a deep sea port in the Arabian Sea without passing through Pakistani territory, India has announced that it will construct a 900-km (560-mile) railway linking the Iranian port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman to Hajikak region in Bamiyan province of Afghanistan, some 130 km (81 miles) west of Kabul.

A consortium of Indian companies has won the international tender on a rich iron ore mine in Hajikak, Afghanistan’s largest, and are expected to be bidding on three copper and gold mines in the country when they are tendered early next year. Without the rail link to Chabahar, the Indians had to transport the ore south through Pakistani Baluchistan to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. The rail link circumvents Gwadar in a move seen as a major blow to the potential of that port in becoming the gateway for transporting the rich mineral deposits in landlocked Afghanistan to the world.

Iran’s Chabahar, in Iranian Baluchistan, and for years near idle as a deep-sea commercial port, will have the potential of becoming the gateway to Afghanistan if and when the construction of the railway is completed. Chabahar is 72 km (45 miles) west of Gwadar.


Kemjika said...

perfect response by Iran to Pakistan punking out of IPI pipeline. Pak even dropped out of the Iran-Pak pipeline....

Anonymous said...

This is logical economic and geo-strategic move by both Iran and India, who are rising powers and have had historically good relations, despite India stabbing Iran in the back at the UNSC on the "nuclear issue". However, Manmohan Singh seems to have had a change of heart recently with a more balanced policy towards Iran and distancing from the US.

Iran's road, ports and communications infrastructure is light-years ahead of Pakistan, where in Baluchistan there is a full-scale insurgency going-on against the Punjabi occupiers and the US supported Pakistani occupation army. The situation in Pak-Baluchistan is so dire that even the Chinese pulled-out of the futile Gwader port project after a few of their engineers were killed and kidnapped by Baluch freedom fighters. The largest Bugti and Marri tribes have been in open revolt since the 1970's and now even the more pliant tribals have taken up arms against the imploding failed Pakistani state.

Pakistan was playing a usual two-faced stalling game regarding the construction of the IPI pipeline anyway, and as a US charity dependent state could not have gone ahead with IPI regardless.

Afghanistan is potentially very mineral rich and both India and China have a huge stake in its exploitation. Iran's influence on the Afghan economy is also expanding along with the electricity grid, fuel supplies and trade.

In western Afghanistan, Mazaar e Sharif and Herat in particular (Qajar shahs and Nadir Shah were committed to the preservation of Herat as an inseparable part of "The Guarded Domains of Iran").

So the expanding Iranian influence in western non-Pashtun Afghanistan is quite natural with historical precedents. India's partnership with Iran in stabilizing Afghanistan is also part of regional dynamics as the failed Pakistani state in its delusional quest for "strategic depth" in Afghanistan gets squeezed by all regional players. Even the Chinese have forsaken the Paks as they recently snubbed both Zardari and Gilani on the begging mission to Beijing.

Iran offers a stable overland route outside of the Persian Gulf ports, alternate to the congested and precarious Hormuz straits and open access to the Indian Ocean, the most lucrative trade routes in the world as economic power shifts to Asia by the hour. India will be the world's third largest economy soon and Iran is poised to reap the benefits of its growing trade and geo-stragetic links with Asia.

An integrated inter-modal trade route via Iran to the riches of Central Asia is a win-win for all. Economically it is a key element for the prosperity of regional powers.

Cyrus said...

After the recent oil payments fiasco...Can the Indians really be trusted?

Anonymous said...

----Can the Indians really be trusted?----

pretty humorous. you must be the imp of the obverse.

Nader Uskowi said...

The Indian will be building this railway, if it actually happens, not for Iran’s sake. This project is in India’s own national interest, Iran is just a future beneficiary, and mostly standing on the sideline. Hence you can trust that the Indians would want to build the link. The project, however, might run into stiff resistance from the US and the West, and the Indians can backtrack on this one too.

India is growing so fast that it needs all the natural resources, oil, gas, copper and iron included, that it can get its hands on. This railway will be key to its plans of extracting and importing all the iron and copper ores they can get in Afghanistan, which has over 30 world-class mines that will be tendered in the next few years, starting with the first large-scale tenders coming up late this year/early next year.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and as is there is no way for the Indian to transport the ores to their country. They either have to build a railroad from central Afghanistan south to Helmand to Pakistani Baluchistan into Gwadar, or this alternative route to the West linking it to the Iranian railways to Chabahar.

The Indians obviously prefer the Iranian route. They don’t have to go through Pakistan, which will have the ultimate control over the transit route, and they do not want to make Gwadar the gateway to Afghanistan, not just for their rivalry with Pakistan, but more importantly with China. The Chinese built Gwadar and still control it through a Singapore firm.

Afghanistan newly-found underground riches has indeed stated a new Great Game, with China and India being among the major players. Interesting times in this part of the world!

Anonymous said...

Mr Uskowi this project by India will not happen any time soon.Remember Chinese oil deal or the Pakistan India gas pipeline deal?
Talk is cheap very cheap and the cheapest talk is by a very cheap and desperate regime in fast decline.