Chabahar Deal: Tehran Battles ‘Sanctions Regime’ & Balances Ties With India, Pakistan & China

The Cold War era allowed capitalist forces to devise new methods of controlling the world economy. One effective instrument has been imposing economic sanctions on defiant states to coerce them into submission to the West-sponsored economic order.

China, Russia, India (partially), Iraq, and Iran are among the big countries subjected to this penalization. While European countries began to realize, albeit laconically, the negative consequences of the sanctions because of its economic backlash, the US is caught in a dilemma.

Events like the Ukraine war, the Middle East crisis, the Arab Spring movement, the Islamic resurgence, and the Hindutva movement in India all are, in one way or another, the manifestations of worldwide reaction to the urge to control the world economy through the mechanism of universalism (for which Indian thinkers have chosen the word Sanatan)

Chabahar Deal

As China’s economic and military clout grew manifold owing to her command system of governance, Pakistan found an ally endowed with the potential to stand up to its arch-enemy and the next-door neighbor, India. 

Little did Islamabad realize that by consenting to be the faithful supporter of China’s connectivity ambitions and projects, it was becoming the target of the attention of world economy watchdogs. The results of a client country’s miscalculations are now before everybody.

China-manned Gwadar port is an affront to the countries that have had sufficient ground to be friendly and not inimical to Pakistan. The anti-India stance has done more harm to Pakistan than to India.

As the layers under which China’s real intent in its projects like the Karakoram Highway, CPEC, or the BRI Initiative began to become exposed, the affected countries worked on something that countered the intentions not only of China but also of the Western-dominated economies.

India At The Forefront

India’s pragmatic and proactive nationalist leadership has prioritized outdoing the threatening posture of the Gwadar seaport under Chinese control. As the primary state with the longest coastline, India has large stakes in the Indian Ocean. This is why, under the NDA government, India opted for membership in Quad-4, essentially a defense project.

The ten-year Chabahar deal with Iran, which gives India the right to develop and commercialize the important south-east Iranian port in the Gulf of Oman, has come after so many hiccups the two countries had to negotiate and rework pacts.

The entire history of the Indo-Iranian contemplated project was marred by skepticism, internal and external pressure, financial imperatives, and the reaction of old-world powers besides essentially by the regional states.

After all, primarily besides Iran, crucial states like Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, trans-Caspian states, and finally, Russia would have a stake in the projected north-south transit route.

The Indian External Affairs Minister had to do enormous legwork to bring about the consensus that ultimately resulted in the signing of the deal. Only a few weeks back, President Putin had to convince the Azerbaijan president in Moscow to see through the plan of game spoilers.

There are no two opinions about the sponsors’ intentions. The new north-south trade corridor aims to eliminate the time and huge export expenditures involved in transacting between prime Indian Ocean countries—India, Eurasia, and Western Europe. It neutralizes the threats of sanction regimes and the security threats emanating from the radical Islamists in the Red Sea, Suez, and Mediterranean Sea regions.

The most critical and strategic element inherent in the underbelly of the north-south corridor for India is Afghanistan, to which India has no overland connectivity owing to the endemic animosity of Pakistan towards India first and Afghanistan next.

Connectivity, trade, friendship, and the renaissance of historic and cultural ties between India and Afghanistan are of invaluable importance. These parameters are also within the focus of Iran-Afghanistan relations.

India’s strategy is to establish a road and rail link between Chabahar and Kabul via the Helmand River valley to Turkmenistan’s southern border town of Sirakhs. Here, the Iranian rail link of Chabahar–Sirakhs would converge on the Indian rail link between  Chabahar – Helmand – Kabul and Sirakhs.

Russian sources have revealed that Moscow is planning a trans-Caucasus railroad to Baku in Trnas-Caspia and then Sikrakhs. In short, the entire geo-strategy of the Eurasian region can expect a sea change in the connectivity and transportation sectors of respective countries. Regional and world trade will open a new chapter.

Iran Abu Mahdi Missile
Iran’s Abu Mahdi missile on a display. Source: X (formerly Twitter).

Iranian Factor

Iran wants to be the custodian of the waters of the Persian Gulf, and rightly so. She will not surrender that right to any country, big or small. She has developed good relations with China on the assumption that China will not force her armed presence in the Gulf and remain restricted to trade and commerce.

Ten-year deal with India is for two reasons. First, Iran wants India to be on its side as far as the security of the Gulf is concerned. Secondly, Iran wants to strike a balanced relationship with two mutually antagonistic states, India and Pakistan.

During his recent visit to Islamabad, Iranian President Raisi committed to a ten billion US dollar trade deal between Iran and Pakistan in the next five years. Iran has struck a balance with its Chabahar deal with India.

Iran wants to wriggle out of isolation thrust on her by American sanctions. At the same time, Tehran wants to be a nuclear power. Pakistan’s propaganda that she has the Islamic bomb is pooh-poohed by Tehran as “Saudi bomb by proxy.” For these reasons, Iran is building a dependable bloc to counter the “sanctions regime” beating stick.

Iran struck back at Israel in a massive way, firing more than 300 drones and missiles. Teheran did not depend on her proxies to undertake the reprisal mission for two reasons. One is that she wanted to convey to the US and Israel that she has the potential to deal with the twin adversary’s threat.

Secondly, it wanted to assure the proxies as well as the Arab states that it is self-sufficient in terms of missile and drone technology and would not depend on any country, including the OIC or even Turkey, which is trying to snatch the leadership of the ummah from the hands of Saudi Arabia.

Iran is emboldened by the massive anti-Israel and anti-American protests not only in numerous educational institutions of the US but across the globe as well. Through these protest rallies, a message is meant to be sent to the US State Department that its hold on the Middle East has become fragile, and Tehran is preparing to come up as a replacement.

  • Prof. KN Pandita (Padma Shri) is the former director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.
  • This article contains the author’s personal views and does not represent EurAsian Times’ policies/views/opinions in any way. 
  • The author can be reached at knp627 (at)