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India may continue with Chabahar despite Iran-China deal

India may continue with Chabahar despite Iran-China deal

India is not likely to give up on the Chabahar project even as China and Iran thrashed out a strategic $400-billion deal.

Iran, hit badly by the coronavirus pandemic and US sanctions, decided to drop India from the crucial Chabahar rail project, connecting Chabahar port and Zahedan but sources said that New Delhi could retrieve the situation to a large extent in the medium term.

While they added that India is likely to remain engaged with Iran on the issue, a lot will also depend on the US elections slated later during the year.

“There could be a new White House policy on Iran and that has to be kept in mind,” a person familiar with the development said, adding that the China-Iran deal is at a nascent stage and a host of loose ends will have to be tied up. “It is to be seen how finally things shape up as many nuts and bolts will have to be tightened,” the person said.

India has already developed the first phase of the Chabahar Port project, touted as New Delhi’s answer to Gwadar in Pakistan, developed by China as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Policymakers, however, said that India-Iran bilateral relations continue to remain “very strong despite ups and downs.”

“India and Iran share a very special relationship. The two countries have remained friends for centuries and this one episode cannot dent the deep-rooted ties,” Narendra Taneja, energy expert and national spokesperson for BJP, told IN. The two countries share many cultural commonalities, which cannot be scrapped easily, he added.

Experts pointed out that China, after getting isolated globally after its role in handling the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent military and political aggression, is now scouting for new allies. The dragon nation has also come under the scanner for its treatment to the Uighur Muslims. Reportedly about 1 million Uighur Muslims are held in detention camps. The Uighur Muslims are even made to give their DNA and biometric samples.

It is surprising that Iran, which had been quick in pointing out that the violence related to the Citizenship Amendment Act would impact relations between the two countries, has gone ahead with the 25-year-deal with China despite widespread protests over the dragon’s handling of the Uighur Muslims. Under the agreement, China will get oil at a discounted rate.

Iran’s exports of crude oil were severely impacted after the US sanctions..