World View: Iran-India Sign ‘Historic’ Chabahar Port Deal to Counter Pakistan-China

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on May 23, 2016 shows him (right) walks alongside Indian

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Iran and India sign ‘historic’ deal for Iran’s Chabahar port
  • Chabahar port deal highlights enmity between Iran-India versus Pakistan-China
  • Iran, India and the classic fables of Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, Jataka and Panchatantra
  • The Caspian Corridor and the New Silk Road

Iran and India sign ‘historic’ deal for Iran’s Chabahar port

Map displaying the trade routes related to the Chabahar and Gwadar ports (
Map displaying the trade routes related to the Chabahar and Gwadar ports (

In a two-day visit to Iran’s capital city Tehran, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi and Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani signed a dozen commercial, security and cultural agreements.

The most important was the “historic” Chabahar Port agreement. Chabahar is on the coast of Iran near Pakistan. India has agreed to invest $500 million to significantly increase the size of this port. Using it, India will be able to bypass Pakistan in shipping goods to Iran, and from there to Afghanistan, Central Asia or Europe. (Chabahar is the large red star on the map above, and the red lines are proposed travel routes from Mumbai to Chabahar, through Iran to Central Asia and Europe.)

The proposal to build up Chabahar has been discussed since the 1990s, but agreements have been slow to come. Then the whole project was put on hold because of international sanctions on Tehran. So this deal comes just four months after international sanctions have been lifted.

China has been investing heavily in the Pakistan’s port at Gwadar, shown by the large purple star in the map above. The purple lines show China’s trade routes to the Mideast:

  • The thin purple lines show China’s traditional trade route — through the South China Sea, then through the Strait of Malacca through the Andaman Sea to ports in Burma, then through the Bay of Bengal to ports in Sri Lanka, and then across the Indian Ocean. The small purple stars show China’s “String of Pearls” port facilities along the route.
  • The thick purple lines show the overland route between China, through Pakistan, to the port of Gwadar.

A visitor from Mars might wonder why India doesn’t just ship commercial goods over land through Pakistan to the port of Gwadar or to Iran. The answer is that in December of last year, Pakistan’s government said that it would not permit Indian goods to be transported across Pakistan.

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani was also in Tehran on Tuesday to join in the announcement of the Chabahar Port agreement. The agreement is significant for Afghanistan, because it will mean a great deal of increased trade with its ally, India. Indian Express and Tehran Times and Dawn (Pakistan – 10-Dec-2015)

Chabahar port deal highlights enmity between Iran-India versus Pakistan-China

Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani and Ashraf Ghani in Tehran on Tuesday (PTI)
Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani and Ashraf Ghani in Tehran on Tuesday (PTI)

Long-time readers are aware that for ten years I’ve been reporting that Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, America will be allied with India, Russia and Iran, versus China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. ( “15-Jul-15 World View — Arab views of Iran nuclear deal”)

In the case of Iran, the generational analysis was pretty straightforward. In the early 2000s, there were numerous pro-Western and pro-American riots and demonstrations by college students in Iran. Of course, the Iranian hardliners crushed them violently, but doing that did not change any hearts and minds. Today, those college students are in the 30s, in positions of power, and they retain those pro-Western views. ( “9-Nov-15 World View — Political crisis in Iran grows over nuclear agreement”)

Obviously, that analysis only goes back about 15 years. But in fact, Hindus and Shias have been closely linked for many centuries, and it is particularly significant that, in 681 AD, Hindus fought on the side of (what would become) the Shias in the most important battle in Islam’s post-Mohammed history — the Battle of Karbala, the battle that permanently split the Muslim world of the time into the Sunni and Shia branches.

During the visit by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi to Tehran, Modi gave a speech that emphasized the long relationship between the two cultures:

Centuries of free exchange of ideas and traditions, poets and craftsmen, art and architecture, culture and commerce have enriched both our civilizations. Our heritage has also been a source of strength and economic growth for our nations. The richness of Persian heritage is an integral part of the fabric of the Indian society. A part of Iranian culture lives in Indian hearts. And, a slice of Indian heritage is woven into the Iranian society. Our ancient heroes and epics bear striking parallels. The dargahs of Azmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin in India are equally revered in Iran. Mahabharata and Shahnama, Bhima and Rustam, Arjuna and Arsh exhibit similarity in our world views and values…

As two ancient civilizations, we are known for our ability to be inclusive and welcoming to foreign cultures. Our contacts have not just refined our own cultures. They have also contributed to the growth of moderate and tolerant societies globally. Sufism a rich product of our ancient links, carried its message of true love, tolerance and acceptance to the entire mankind. The spirit of Sufism is also reflected in the Indian concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the World as one family. …

India and Iran have always been partners and friends. Our historical ties may have seen their share of ups and downs. But, throughout our partnership has remained a source of boundless strength for both of us. Time has come for us to regain the past glory of traditional ties and links. Time has come for us to march together. In this endeavor, you, the eminent scholars have a defining role to play.

After reading that, compare it to the words of China’s president Xi Jinping when he visited Pakistan in April of last year to sign numerous commercial, security and cultural agreements, including plans for a $46 billion transportation corridor from Xinjiang province to the port of Gwadar. ( “27-Apr-15 World View — China extends its military buildup with Pakistan”)

During Xi’s “historic” visit to Pakistan, he said the following:

This will be my first trip to Pakistan, but I feel as if I am going to visit the home of my own brother. Over the years, thanks to the nurturing of generations of leaders and people from all sectors of both countries, China-Pakistan friendship has flourished like a tree growing tall and strong. No matter how the circumstances in our two countries, the region and the world change, our bilateral relations have enjoyed sound and steady growth. We have always respected, understood and supported each other on issues concerning our respective core interests. In Pakistan, our relationship is poetically hailed as a friendship “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans and sweeter than honey.” In China, Pakistan is known as a sincere and reliable friend. Obviously, China-Pakistan friendship is deeply felt in the hearts of our two peoples.

In May 2011, Pakistan’s ambassador to China Masood Khan described the relationship between Pakistan and China as “higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, stronger than steel, sweeter than honey, and dearer than eyesight.”

These two displays of deep affection, India with Iran and China with Pakistan, may sound like true love, but they are the portent of things to come, the coming Clash of Civilizations world war will pit India, Iran and others versus China, Pakistan and others, in the bloodiest and most destructive war in world history. Narendri Modi and Times of India and Pakistan Observer

Iran, India and the classic fables of Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, Jataka and Panchatantra

During Narendra Modi’s speech, excerpted above, Modi said the following:

India and Iran are two civilizations that celebrate the meeting of our great cultures. The rare Persian manuscript Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, released just now, captures the close historical links between India and Iran. It is remarkable how the simple stories of the Indian classics of Jataka and Panchatantra became the Persian Kalileh-wa-Dimneh. It is a classic example of exchange and travel of cultural ideas between two societies. ­A beautiful demonstration of how our two cultures and countries think alike. A true depiction of the wisdom of our ancient civilizations.

I had never heard of these classics, but I checked out the Kalileh-wa-Dimneh. I’ve only had time to skim through it, but it is a fascinating collection of fables and stories that remind me of Aesop’s Fables. It would be well worth your time, Dear Reader, to take a look for yourself. Kalileh-wa-Dimneh

The Caspian Corridor and the New Silk Road

The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe
The Caspian Trade Corridor is part of the New Silk Road connecting Asia with Europe

In ancient times the Silk Road, a complex road network, was the most favored transport route between China and Europe. Today, there is a great deal of renewed interest in developing a New Silk Road, new trade routes between Asia and Europe. This article describes two such trade routes, through the ports of Chabahar and Gwadar, respectively.

It is worth mentioning one additional trade route from Asia to Europe, the Caspian Corridor, that I’ve written about before. ( “21-Jan-16 World View — Azerbaijan forced to choose between Russia and Turkey”)

The plan is to develop infrastructure within the Caspian Sea to effectively connect Central Asia to the Caucasus region. Goods can travel overland from India and China through Central Asia by truck and railway, to a port on the Caspian Sea. From there, the goods are ferried across the Caspian Sea to a port in Azerbaijan. From there, they can travel overland again, through Georgia, Turkey, and then into Europe, including Ukraine.

The Caspian Corridor is suitable for Pakistan and China, but not for India, since it would require land transport across Pakistan, which apparently has been forbidden. In fact, Pakistan and China have effectively isolated India from Afghanistan and Central Asia. India has been forced to use costly and impractical routes to reach the heart of Asia and Asiatic Russia.

For that reason, the Chabahar port project is considered a “game changer,” and will make a significant difference for India and Afghanistan. According to Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani: “A hundred years from now historians will remember this day as the start of regional cooperation. We wanted to prove that geography is not our destiny. With our will we can change geography.” Deccan Chronicle (India)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, India, Iran, Pakistan, China, Chabahar, Gwadar, Narendra Modi, Hassan Rouhani, Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, Battle of Karbala, Shias, Sunnis, Hindus, Masood Khan, Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, Jataka, Panchatantra, Aesop, Caspian Corridor, New Silk Road
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