New Delhi | WTNS | Jan 18: In Tehran, India and Iran have finalized an agreement on the Chahbahar Port, marking India’s inaugural foreign port venture. Talks on this Iranian project date back several years, notably during Prime Minister Modi’s 2017 visit to Tehran and External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s emphasis on Chahbahar’s role as a regional transit hub at the 2021 Connectivity Conference in Tashkent. On November 23, 2023, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra co-chaired discussions in Tehran, covering bilateral matters, Chahbahar port’s connectivity projects, and shared perspectives on regional challenges.
Situated in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province, the Chahbahar port project, evolving since 2003, involves a joint investment of $8 billion for port and related industries. Intended as a transit route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, it features two main ports, with India focusing on the development of Shaheed Beheshti port. A trilateral economic agreement was signed with Afghanistan in January 2016, envisioning a comprehensive project including a port, a free trade zone, a 628-km railway line to Zahedan, and a 1,000-km track to Sirakhs on the Iran–Turkmenistan border.
Final Agreement and Significance
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Iran, following geopolitical events in the region, involved discussions with Iranian leaders, including President Ebrahim Raisi. The leaders emphasized expediting the Chahbahar Port Development Plan. Jaishankar highlighted the comprehensive framework for India’s engagement with Chahbahar port and the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC). This strategic project provides India with a direct route to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan and unlocking significant economic opportunities for Kabul.
The Chahbahar initiative also aims to diminish Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan, counter China’s dominance through CPEC, and reduce dependence on China’s “debt trap.” It offers cost-effective import routes compared to the Mediterranean-Suez route and opens avenues for natural gas imports from Central Asia.
Challenges and Diplomatic Consideration
Despite these achievements, challenges persist, such as growing ties between Iran and China and strained Iran-US relations. India seeks international support, especially from the US, for NSG membership. The project’s success hinges on maintaining positive relations between India and Iran.
Chahbahar Project Amidst Regional Tensions
India’s commitment to the Chahbahar project coincides with a precarious Middle East political scenario, with potential implications for global naval trade. Recent events, including US-UK actions in Yemen, add complexity. During this time, Jaishankar’s discussions in the US and Tehran raise questions about the broader geopolitical context, including speculation about a private letter from President Biden to Iranian authorities.
India Elevates Farsi to Classical Language Status in Historic Cultural Move
In a momentous stride to fortify cultural bonds, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar unveiled India’s decision to designate Farsi (Persian) as one of the country’s nine classical languages, as outlined in the New Education Policy.
The announcement came to light during Jaishankar enlightening two-day visit to Iran on January 15, where he not only underlined the deep-rooted cultural, literary, and linguistic connections between India and Iran but also ushered in an era of enhanced linguistic appreciation.
This move signifies India’s dedicated commitment to nurturing a profound understanding and appreciation of Farsi’s opulent heritage within its educational framework. Tamil was granted the first classical language status in India in 2004, and now, Farsi joins the esteemed list alongside Sanskrit, Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, and others, recognized by the central government.
“In addition to these classical languages, Pali, Persian, and Prakrit, along with their literary works, must be preserved for their richness, providing pleasure and enrichment for posterity,” as emphasized in India’s National Education Policy-2020.
This strategic recognition not only augments the linguistic diversity of India but also serves as a testament to the enduring cultural ties between India and Iran. The inclusion of Farsi as a classical language is anticipated to foster a deeper appreciation of Persian literature, creating a bridge for mutual cultural enrichment and understanding