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How Two Ports in Iran and Pakistan Will Impact Central Asia (including Afghanistan)


  1. 1. What's more important?

    • Pleasing Israel, which requires continuing to treat Iran as an enemy much to Afghanistan's detriment.
    • Propping up a stable Afghanistan, which requires cooperating with Iran on Chabahar, even if it displeases our friends in Tel Aviv.

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Filed: Timeline

Published by John C. K. Daly

September 22, 201

Two ports currently under construction of the east coast of the Arabian Sea have enormous economic implications not only for their host nations but Eurasia’s post-Soviet space as well, providing a potential maritime link for their exports and imports beyond railway lines dominated by former imperial master, Russia. But surprisingly, both facilities are being developed by outside nations locked in a geostrategic rivalry of their own, complicating the ports’ developments as a subset of Eurasia’s new “Great Game.”

Chabahar, Iran’s southernmost city, is located on the Arabian Sea’s Makran coast in Sistan and Balochistan Province, and the port has free trade zone status. Pakistan’s Gwadar port also is situated on Pakistan’s Balochistan province’s Makran coast, only 72 nautical miles southeast of Chabahar. India is helping to underwrite the development of Iran’s Chabahar, while China has been financing Gwadar since 2002.


In Feb. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a two-day visit to New Delhi, said, “Chabahar and a corridor, both rail and road from Chabahar to Afghanistan and Central Asia, is a project we are working on together with India. I hope that in this trip we can take practical steps (to implement the project). This region is suffering from a war economy, drug economy and from illegal trade economy. If we can provide an alternative economy, then we can deal with the problems like terrorism. There is a whole range of economic projects that we can work together on. There are transportation projects, energy projects. There are lots of areas that we can work together on that will benefit both countries and ensure peace and security in the region.”


Beyond financing Chabahar, India is not neglecting infrastructure and has also constructed a 135-mile Zaranj-Dilaram road in Afghanistan’s Nimroze province, which will connect to Chabahar port via Milak, which will assist in opening the Indian market to Afghanistan.

Indian investment in Chabahar is important for India to protect its “business and commercial interests” in the landlocked Afghanistan as Pakistan has denied India transit access to Afghanistan through its land route.

Farther north, Beijing has already invested heavily in building Pakistan’s Gwadar International Port at the mouth of the Gulf of Oman, gateway to the Gulf through which 40 percent of the world’s oil passes. With Chinese assistance the strategic, warm-water, deep-sea Gwadar Port was completed in 2007. China was a major investor in Gwadar and spent $248 million in the first phase of developing Gwadar port, whose eventual costs topped $2.2 billion.


Pakistan has already handed over the task of handling Gwadar Port to the CHEC [China Harbor Engineering Company]. The company which is responsible to make the port fully functional took it over at the beginning of this year. CHEC is currently dredging Gwadar’s three mile-long channel to a depth of 46 feet, which will allow it to handle all but the largest ocean-going merchantmen.

When fully operational, Gwadar will give China easy access to the key energy markets in the Middle East, convenient access to the warm waters of Indian Ocean and a listening post near the Strait of Hormuz.


China is planning to reproduce the model of Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) in Gwadar, telling reporters, “The SFTZ is a perfect model to be implemented at Gwadar. It was first used as a testing ground for a number of economic and social reforms in China and it proved very helpful in scaling up the country’s economic growth.”

The future of the two ports depends on both infrastructure development and political stability. In the issue of infrastructure, Iran, with its extensive railway network, is clearly ahead. Iran is also more politically stable than Pakistan, has better relations with Afghanistan and the Central Asian states, and unlike Gwadar’s proposed transport infrastructure, its proposed route goes through relatively stable parts of Afghanistan. Countering these advantages is the fact that China has far richer fiscal resources to throw at its Pakistani infrastructure projects and a far higher volume of maritime trade.


It is probably too much to hope for, but given the vast amounts of money that the West has spent in Afghanistan, Western economic institutions and governments might assist Indian and Chinese investment in fast-tracking both projects, rather than devolving into political squabbling, as a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan crisscrossed by roads and railways would benefit the economies of virtually all of Afghanistan’s neighbors as well.

In the meantime, all the post-Soviet Central Asian states can do is sit and wait.

Dr. John C. K. Daly is a non-resident Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Central Asia Caucasus Institute in Washington DC.


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Filed: IR-1/CR-1 Visa Country: China

So, what you mean to share with us, AraJit,

is that

if we bomb all of Balochistan province,

then no one can use the ports.

No One.

'Merica Wins, right?

I likes it !

Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

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