Chabahar: Without Pakistan, there is no stability or growth in landlocked Afghanistan and Af-Indo relations

Published: November 6, 2017

Leaders of India, Iran, Afghanistan: Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani, Ashraf Ghani in Tehran on May 23, 2016. PHOTO: GETTY

We can bypass neither our history nor our geography – we have to live and deal with the consequences of both. Europe has a bitter history of war and dissensions among its member countries, with France and Germany, for instance, having had a long history of animosity and distrust. They fought many battles against each other, but by learning from their history and accepting their geography, they decided to come together for the common good of their people.

Today, South Asia resembles this pre-World War II era, with historical animosities defining the political wisdom of South Asian states. The distrust is so deep that countries are diverting their resources in an effort to undermine each other rather than spending to uplift their densely populated territories.

The opening of the Chabahar Port in Iran is touted more as a political victory than as an economic ease for India and Afghanistan. It has been projected as an attempt to redefine the geopolitics of the region.

On the face of it, the port is an alternative trade route for India and Afghanistan that moves further into Central Asia as well. It is billed as the beginning of a new era for the Indo-Afghan relationship; while in some quarters it is also projected as a solution to the problems plaguing the landlocked nation.

But the truth cannot remain veiled under a myth.

The opening of the Iranian port will undoubtedly reduce the dependency of Kabul on Islamabad for trade. But is it an alternative to the road route? Or can it be an alternative to land routes?

This brings us to the crucial point of addressing the political problem plaguing both Af-Pak and Indo-Pak relations – the need to realise that geo-economics and geopolitics are interlinked. The proponents of Chabahar should thus also start advocating for political solutions.

On one hand, if the US thinks that by pushing India deep into Afghanistan it can ‘fix’ Pakistan, then there is cause to be suspicious of the real intentions of the western world. On the other hand, if New Delhi thinks Chabahar can rival the Gwadar port and thereby can challenge China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, then it is nurturing an excessively narrow vision. By blindly aligning itself with the interests of the US, New Delhi will make a mistake. The South Asian democracy cannot afford to suffer from hubris at this point in time.

If India feels that Chabahar liberates it from the responsibility of seeking friendly relations with its Western neighbour, then it is denying itself a role in history. It is denying the subcontinent an opportunity to live in peace.

It is a stark truth. As long as India and Pakistan remain on unfriendly terms, there is no hope for stability or growth in the landlocked Afghanistan.

In its blind urge to be seen countering Beijing through an alliance with the US, New Delhi should not stop pursuing a political solution to the regional problem affecting the Indian subcontinent. Similarly, Pakistan cannot deny its role in creating uncertainty in the subcontinent – it is now old enough and stable enough to go beyond the old India-centric narrative.

Pakistan cannot rule out the benefit of free trade through the Wagah border, which is why it needs to liberate itself from the thought of New Delhi being an existential threat to it. It should also understand that it cannot put all its eggs in China’s basket. If the proximity with Beijing brings an enduring assurance, the normalisation of the relationship with its eastern neighbour will bring the much needed stability that the Islamic Republic yearns for.

Pakistan has stressed that it does not regard trade between India and Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar Port as an alliance against it. India will make a mistake if it thinks that Iran’s economic corridor can be used to corner China or Pakistan.

The irony is that Chabahar does not give India much to manoeuvre vis-a-vis Pakistan. The port’s functionality depends on the goodwill of Iran. Tehran has not only nurtured a good relationship with China and Afghanistan, it also promotes friendly relations with Islamabad and values its role in Afghanistan for peace and long-term stability. Though Washington might be aligning with New Delhi, the fact remains that New Delhi remains isolated in South Asia. Its obsession to undermine Pakistan and China has ultimately created greater instability in the region.

The bottom line is that New Delhi has to stabilise its relationship with Pakistan, as ultimately this is the only way out for Afghanistan.

Santosh Arora

Santosh Arora

The blogger is a journalist from India.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • bilal

    Very sensible piece and perspective on history. As someone said “tomorrow you’ll have to cross bridges that you burned today”…Recommend

  • Sane Sid

    Crazy Analysis…… Grapes are sour……Recommend

  • Utsav Sharma

    P R O P A G A N D ARecommend

  • PorkSmasher

    How does India isolated in South Asia. Has India objected Iran to have a ties with Pakistan or has objected Afghanistan. For your kind information India has given MFN status to Pakistan a long long ago. It is Pakistan who played spolier in regards with India, be it SAARC countries connectivity or be it access to Afghanistan to trade with India. After so many years of Pakistan duplicity over trade route India has to develop an alternative.Recommend

  • Umar Nazir

    India should declare openly that it wil never attack on Pakistan what ever the circumstances will be in Pakistan and Pakistan also extend its hands for friendship with india if india willing to do so as wellRecommend

  • Rahul

    So far it is working so why not leave foreign policy to those who understand something.Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    Chabahar is not a huge project like OBOR. It is not to bypass any country, instead it is for connecting a country and providing them routes. It may extend upto central Asia. This is result of fact that Pakistan denied smooth flow of traffic between India and Afghanistan. Also TAPI and IPI pipelines were stucked. India will find ways. We are pro development, we are connecting people we dont create obstacles. We already gave Most favored nation status to Pakistan ! Chabahar and Gawadar both have totally different purposes. Even if Pakistan gave access to Afghanistan, India need Chabahar as it may be cheaper for south west Indian ports to trade with Iran, West Afghanistan and central Asians countries.Recommend

  • Santanu Chatterjee

    India also wants the peace with Pakistan but if giving Kashmir is the way to peace as per Pakistani thinking then there will be no peace as long as nation state exists in our earth and we have to wait for the time when the world will be border less. Before this to happen it is Pakistan who will suffer more as it is weaker than India in every front and in a fight weaker gets hurt more than the stronger. Pakistan should start to think beyond Kashmir if they want peace with India. They should understand that nation state does not shed its territory unless it is lost it in war like Pakistan lost its eastern partmRecommend

  • bogus

    Pakistan always complains that it wants to be treated as equal by USA and India – but Pakistan never treats Afghanistan as an equal. Pakistan seems to think it has the right to determine who Afghanistan chooses as friend and who it does business with – totally disregarding Afghanistan as independent nation with sovereign rights.Recommend

  • MT

    India is isolated in south Asia was a satirical statementRecommend

  • Ravi Sharma

    This article says nothing. It merely echoes the “politically correct” viewpoint from Pakistani angle. Surely, my dear Santosh Arora , you could have come up with something deeper if not something original. God bless!!Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Veiled threats like this won’t work anymore. The forces arrayed against Pakistan is now too great. If Pakistan wants the US to leave the region, it has to stop thinking of Afghanistan as its own province. The state of Pakistan’s finances will not allow it to continue with such adventures any longer. You cannot wish away India’s influence in Afghanistan because the people themselves prefer dealing with India than Pakistan.Recommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Let’s not forget that Pakistan has lost one big leverage with the US. If you threaten to block the supplies route Chabahar will provide an alternative – US-Iran relationship notwithstanding.Recommend

  • Arunanshu M

    Bloggers get paid. This one looks overpaid by Pakistan.Recommend

  • Micheal stevenson

    what utter rubbish, clearly India bypassed Pakistan. Recommend

  • p rajan

    Utter nonsense. Who minds what pakistan is thinking and doing. India knows very well that pakistan cannot be dealt with diplomatic or political means. Recommend

  • Rajiv

    How come such articles are even allowed on a national level paper?Recommend

  • Omar Dar

    Check out the name of the author. Grapes are indeed sour.Recommend

  • wb

    “By blindly aligning itself with the interests of the US, New Delhi will make a mistake.”

    You do realize that USA and Iran are enemies and USA has sanctions against Iran, right?!!.

    So, please explain to me how is India blindly aligning with US by befriending and helping USA’s enemy Iran? I urge you to use simple logic, you know like arithmetic, like 2+2=4, like basic primary school reasoning. And justify your above statement.

    No, I’m not at all suggesting you failed primary school. But, I just fail to see elementary arithmetic/logic here.Recommend

  • Milford

    It’s you on borrowed fake name. Oh wellRecommend

  • James Kapoor

    Pakistan looked like a sitting duck and yes blogger has every right to think how great Gawadar is and how poor Chabahar is, but rooting your analysis around India and evaluating Pakistan’s importance out of it is a very short sighted vision.

    What Pakistan needs is a thinker, visionary, leader who can think of Pakistan first and not India first.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Chabahar as a commercial venture is beneficial to both Iran and India……as for Afghanistan its significance is more political.Recommend

  • Kumar

    The article never presents an argument why it is not a successful by-pass route, except blindly accusing New Delhi. India is compelled to keep Geo-political concerns, lets face it India and Pak issues will never be resolved. In this course this is just an incredible and effective step taken by the New Delhi. Iran-Afghan-Ind, all three are now in the wake of Economic development, certainly do not want to waste the time in discussing the Geo-political issues with Pakistan, which can never be a stable solution. More over Chabahar cannot be lloked through the prism of Afghanistan, it provides a stable route to Central Asia.Recommend

  • Ravian

    Very well written, Chahbahar is only a political gimmick for India. Carrying goods to Afghanistan from Chahbahar is very costly. Imagine India completes investment of billions on Chahbahar and somehow Af-Pak relations improve ! Trade through Pakistan will be much cheap and India’s Chahbahar investment will go in vain.Recommend

  • Sane Sid

    Ohh Omar…. this guy is paid to write Blogs. Someone gave him enough money to write an article….. being an educated Indian he is talented enough to earn his bread…… you can heap praises on him … I dont mindRecommend

  • Sane Sid

    India has never made such a promise and should never make one on these lines….. a rogue nation created on the lines of hate, producing terror in its backyard is sure to be doomed someday….. better pakistani intellectuals should wake up before it is too lateRecommend


    Try shipping U.S Army goods via Chabahar.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Why would India do that unless Pakistan declare it won’t send any terrorists to India and would not support terrorism in India? I tell you what buddy, India has not even retaliated in proportion to what Pakistan has been doing and you guys have started crying. So imagine if India unleash the wrath , you won’t be able to run anywhere and your masters would just be mute spectators.Recommend

  • Lalit

    Chahbahar’s existence and sustenance originates from the fact that Pakistan denies Afghans the right to import from India through Wagah border. If Pakistan chooses to deny Afghans this right than they have full right to use an alternate route to import articles from India.Pakistan on the other hand is given access to central Asia through Afghanistan. In this process if Pakistan looses its leverage, believe me nobody other than Pakistan is bothered.
    Chahbahar for the matter of fact is not a rival to OBOR or CPEC ,whatever that is .Neither is it a grand scheme to counter China as the learned author seems to is merely a vehicle to provide an alternate and more reliable trade route to Afghans from India .if Pakistan had allowed Afghan trucks to carry items from Wagha to Torkham I doubt Chahbahar would have existed..but now time is over for negotiations on this topic.Recommend

  • Anoop

    The bridge – land access between Afghanistan and India – was never allowed by your country. So this bridge doesn’t exist. We can’t burn bridges that don’t exist.Recommend

  • Patwari

    So, how much did YOU get paid for
    writing this comment?Recommend

  • Joe Gargery

    Nope. It’s still a poverty stricken country with delusions.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Not at all. Ask Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan
    and erstwhile Pakistan.
    [Bangla-desh is considered a Hindu-desh colony]Recommend

  • Patwari

    The grapes “ain’t ” sour at all. See, Hindustan is a pristine,
    shining, rising, raping, saffron, country held up by all the gods
    and their avatars.
    Everyone has jobs, no killing Muslims and minorities, no genocide
    in IOK, no secessionist movements in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghaleya, Manipur, Mizoram, Ladakh, no rampaging thugs roaming the cities.
    Everyone well fed, everyone has toilets, plenty of idlis and dosas to go
    Jai Hind ! Jai Modi Sarkar !
    [sorry gp65, he asked for it]Recommend

  • Patwari

    Have you perused lately, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Times of India,…..
    better still, have you read the Hindustani comments here on ET?
    this could go on for 5 pages,…in Sanskrit…Recommend

  • Patwari

    Analysis is flaky. But then, what can you expect from a die hard Hindutva
    ideologue like YOU. Nothing much. Except Rising, Raping, Shining, Bharat.
    Do remember, Central Asia is in Chinese sphere…in triplicate.
    Whatever is left over in Central Asia belongs to Russia….in triplicate.
    So Hindustan should be happy with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangla-desh…in triplicate.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Considering YOU have the Butcher of Gujrat as a visionary leader,….
    who has a anti Muslim agenda, who has ordered a Muslim genocide
    in IO Kashmir, whose economic policies are faltering, who cannot
    tolerate any criticism, who puts his opposition in jail, who aids and abets
    religious extremism, who is a poster child for toxic Hindutva ideology,
    who calls murdered Muslims as puppies run over by a car….
    Say, look in the mirror, you will see an ideologue, of the Bharati kind.
    Sorry gp65, there is no dearth of less than capable Hindustani commenters
    of the ridiculous kind here in ET.. Had to do it.Recommend

  • Patwari

    You comment was doing well and was understandable to a great degree.
    Until you reach the part …”lost eastern part”…well, speaking truthfully, that
    was not a war. 90,000 Pak soldiers, surrounded on all sides, keeping one
    million Hindustani soldiers at bay for two weeks,…until Paks ran out of every
    thing. Ammunition, water, fuel, food, etc. etc. No, that was not a war.
    Ooops! Forget,…150,000 Mukhti Bahini stabbing the Paks in the back.
    You argument, then, becomes flawed.
    About par for a Hindustani commenting here on ET except barring gp65.Recommend

  • Patwari

    H I N D U T V A.
    M O D I S A R K A R
    S A D H V I P R A C H I
    YO G I A D I T Y A N A T H
    G H A R W A P S IRecommend

  • Salim Alvi

    “By blindly aligning itself with the interests of the US, New Delhi will make a mistake.” Anglos created Pakistan. US deep state is Anglo. It is better to be friend of the designer of the product so one can know where he has put the stitches so it is easier to tear the product at right place.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    The bridge to Bedouin land is now burning and in near future there won’t be any bridge, road or link to it. The road to China is one way. Chinese fear more Bedouinism of wannabe more Bedouin than Bedouin native converts of subcontinent. Chinese think this Bedouinism as Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD)Recommend

  • Abdul Jabbar

    Pakistan will accept Indian friendship with out Kashmir?Recommend

  • Sane

    Anyone from India who says reasonable is condemned by paid Modi Trolls.Recommend

  • Sane

    If you see your face in mirror or anybody says truth; you must laugh. Indians are very very happy nation. They keep laughing all the time. Irrespective having the largest poverty stricken population, country of rapist (where a one and a half years baby and a woman aged 100 years is also raped), where a women is raped on road pavement in broad daylight in front of dozens of people (not to rescue her but to make rape video)……Indians laugh.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    Good relations between India and Pakistan are only possible when both countries address the concern of the other . 26/11 and terrorism are major concerns for India .Recommend

  • Gautam

    Ha ha…What a waste of World bank loan if Pakistan paid this guy any money at all. A Plate of Chicken nihari with roti would have suffice if the above article is the desired outcome. Case in point, ‘Fact remains that New Delhi remains isolated in South Asia’ That hit me with a ton of bricks.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Ha ha ha. Iran, Afghanistan and India all three joint can’t beat Gwadar in the name of Chahbahar. Gwadar has coeridore, China’s interest and border. What do these 3 have? 👍Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Or ask him, for whom they will import from Chahbahar?Recommend

  • Ramesh Salgotra

    He is fool to say that India is isolated in South Asia. Perhaps he doesn’t know what countries constitute South AsiaRecommend

  • ds sarma

    what a hypocritical is this author? Pakistan will keep terror machine alive and India has to find political solution for Pak’s terror actions?
    Fact is – for the next decade or two, Pakistan is doomed. Both its borders with India and Afghanistan will be a near war scenario and Pakistan will have to trade with China ultimately who will squeeze the blood of Pakistan through their loans and trade concessions for Chinese traders in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Keyboard Senani

    Oh yes we are so so poor…and Pakistanis are the billionaires…all of them.😁😁😁Recommend

  • Sane Sid

    Yeah as if rapes do not occur in Pakistan. Infact Pakistani Law supports underage marriages and rape of minor girls. Where a 50 yr old can rape someone as young as 12. If a 50 yr old kidnaps and converts a 10 year old girl, he is entitled to rape her everyday by law in Pakistan. look around you atleast things are reported and brought to light in India…….grow upRecommend

  • KlingOn2K

    Stranger things have happened.Recommend

  • Sane

    Kashmir hamari shehrag hey (Kashmir is our main artery). First thing first; first India free Kashmir for which Kashmiris are struggling, then talk about trade and friendship.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    how come you don’t even have Disqus id?Recommend

  • Patwari

    “…hit me like a ton of bricks”
    Say,, well, see,..oh…have you notice that dent on your forehead?Recommend

  • Abid Mahmud Ansari.

    Chahbahar is only a political project, may be to fool Aghans. Chahbahar ,in the first place, is and will never be feasible for India-Afghan trade. Learned writer has correctly pointed that trade through it depends upon not only good will of Iran, but the perpetual sword of U.S sanctions on Tehran will remain hanging on its operations. First of all , Chahbahar ‘s completion and becoming operational is doubtful, because, heavy equipment suppliers are not willing to jeopardize their investments in view of U.S sanctions on Tehran, which may be placed any time.Recommend

  • Omar Dar

    What’s your real name? I doubt it is Milford. In any case, my comment was a rhetorical remark on that other person’s comment who is apparently rejecting the author’s premise.Recommend

  • wb

    I have noticed it on your head and I have noticed its effects everytime you comment.Recommend

  • Akshay Kadu

    india have 130cr strong consumer base how can someone isolate us..??Recommend

  • abhi

    Gwader is still not functional and will not be for quite some time.Recommend

  • PorkSmasher

    No more black mailing tactics by Pakistan. Chahabahar will give Afghanistan access to South Asia but who will give access to Pakistan toward Central Asia.Recommend

  • Bilal

    The only person you’ve made sense to is you. Grow up.Recommend

  • Bilal

    Why ? You can’t digest hardcore logic even after 70 years.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Even the village idiot will tell you, let alone a military strategist, that no nation/country wants a two front war. Ever.
    Not feasible. It does not work. Ends in a stalemate.
    Besides in 1965 war, your Bharati army and soldiers developed the backward running technique. Shortest way to barracks while running backwards. Only Bharati soldiers know how to do this.
    It’s called,….Run, Bharat, Run.

    Sorry gp65. he asked for it.Recommend

  • Arunanshu M

    Forget hardcore. It doesn’t even have any core.Recommend

  • Arunanshu M

    These 3 have self respect, unlike Pakistan.Recommend

  • abhi

    U are funny and as usual no logical thinking is expected. You are saying even though Pakistan had “superiority” on western front they didn’t use it because sone village idiot told them?Recommend

  • Arunanshu M

    Exactly as much you get paid for trollingRecommend

  • Arunanshu M

    What about paid trolls like you who can’t even expose their real names?Recommend

  • Arunanshu M

    You are right on Bangladesh. They are doing better than Pakistan in economic, political and social metrics by all parameters.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Ignore him, he is just a silly trollRecommend

  • Azhar

    I would say an excellent article clarifying some important points especially related to situation after opening of Chabahar port. There’s absolutely no doubt that India and Pakistan have to mend their relationship if the region wants to grow and prosper.Recommend

  • Azhar

    In what?Recommend

  • Azhar

    Self respect? I was expecting you would say “maray pass maan hay”. So ultimately your arguments come down to this?Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ARE YOU SERIOUS?Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Lying, brutality, poverty, worldly shame, begging Pakistan for Iranian Pipe Line, Save way to Russia, Selling Pakistani rice or other commodities in the Name of India etc etcRecommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Yaar if you know nothing , better be quite.Recommend

  • Abid Mahmud Ansari.

    Lalit ! why are you, like 99 percent Indians so jittery about Pakistan? Think with a cool mind. Santosh is very correct at some places. Chahbahar, is and will prove to be waste of investment.About your poor argument, Pakistan has never been a vassal state. It was member of CENTO and SEATO, but still Pakistan made to endure U.S sanctions from time to time due to its independent policies. India was hypocritically remained “non-aligned”. But ultimately exposed its non-aligned posture by signing a cooperation and friendship pact with USSR. Actually, India feels comfortable only if its aligned with a super power. After demise of USSR, India aligned itself with U.S.A. India made a big mistake by undertaking Chahbahar project. She could easily built a road from Afghanistan to the other well established port of Bandar Abbas. Writer has correctly pointed out that the ultimate beneficiary will be Iran.Recommend

  • Humza
  • Sane

    You don’t have reply to what I said. By the way underage marriages in India has much much more ratio than Pakistan. In India rape is to some extent is legal as mostly no action is taken against rapist.Recommend

  • Sane

    All crimes fanatic Hindus do against Muslims and minorities are positive!!!? Even your PM Modi was positive when he was supporting killing of 2,000 Muslims in Indian Gujarat.Recommend

  • seher

    you need to study history then, USA always tried to use india to contain china and russia in the region, USA has friendly relations with India even when latter was receiving munitions from Russia…Recommend

  • gp65

    US used Pakistan, not India to contain Russia. In any case, you have skirted the question posed by wb. How can partnering with Iran be considered toeing the US line?Recommend

  • gp65

    Bypassed Pakistan for trading route to Afghanistan. That is what theChabahar port was designed for. India repeatedly asked for land route transit through Pakistan which Pakistan denied and now India does not need Pakistan.Recommend

  • gp65

    India had opted out of Iran -Pakistan-India pipeline project a long while back. It is Pakistan which signed a contract in 2013 which it does not dare to complete due to fear of offending Saudi Arabia. India has no interest in that pipeline.
    It is also unclear how you think India can label Pakistani rice as Indian. If at all anyone has to do it, it is the Pakistani exporters who could do such mislabeling. That is similar to Pakistani restaurants calling themselves Indian in Europe and USA.
    What exactly does ‘save way to Russia’ mean?
    Rest is your opinion and you are entitled to it.Recommend

  • gp65

    Sure – ask Bhutan, who asked India for help during the Doklam crisis. Ask Sri Lanka who denied permission to China to land its submarine at the Hambantota port at India’s request. Ask Nepal for whom India was the first responder in case of their crisis. It is also the top provider of official development assistance.
    Please note all these 3 countries plus Bangladesh had decided to skip the SAARC meeting in Islamabad in response to Uri massacre.Recommend

  • gp65

    Ummm… it is your country that is asking China, US etc. to come to the negotiating table. India is not begging for your trade and friendship.Recommend

  • jssidhoo

    There is no denying the fact trade through Pakistan is the best option but for that Pakistan has to play ball which it wants to on terms not acceptable to Afghanistan or India . In that situation how long do Afghanistan and India have to wait before Pakistan decides on give and take ? Chabahar may not be the best option but it is the only option available , one has to make do with what is available not keep waiting for the moon . Time is money that poor countries can not waste .Recommend