Chabahar is an Iranian port located on the Gulf of Oman. Originally built in 1983 in order to diversify trade away from the Persian Gulf during the Iraq war, Chabahar port was recently expanded following some $500 million in investments and loans from the Indian government. The site consists of two separate ports, Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, which combined have ten deep-water berths.
But Chabahar is more than just a port; it’s a coming out party for India’s regional trade ambitions, the first real attempt at a Belt and Road with Indian characteristics. The port, along with the $1.6 billion Chabahar-Zahedan railway link to Afghanistan that connects to it, seeks to solidify new regional trade routes to Central Asia, routes that will in some cases compete directly with China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative, particularly the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Chabahar port also figures in India’s more ambitious North-South Transportation Corridor, a rail/road/maritime connectivity project that runs northward through Central Asia, Russia, and eventually Europe.
This backgrounder will examine what Chabahar port represents for the main players involved. It will also explore whether or not India’s plans will be jeopardized by President Trump’s recent exit from the Iran nuclear deal.