The first steps to operationalize the International North-South Transport Corridor is moving ahead with the second dry run for sorting out the bottlenecks in the ambitious multi-modal transportation project involving Iran, Russia and India. It comes in the backdrop of China’s increasing effort to somehow revive the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative. While the Chinese aims at connecting some 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe to boost trade and economic ties along its traditional maritime route, Indian action will connect the India Ocean and Persian Gulf with the Caspian Sea through Iran and then onwards to St. Petersburg in Russia and northern Europe.
India aims to move goods from Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla ports on its west coast to Bandar Abbas in Iran by sea. From Bandar Abbas the goods will be transported to Bandar-e-Anzali , the Iranian port on Caspian Sea by road and from there to Astrakhan ,a Caspian port in Russia again by sea. The goods would then be transported into Russian Federation and Europe by the Russian Railway Network.
According to India this new route will reduce the time and cost of deliveries by about 40%. This is much shorter than the current route, which runs through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea. Goods transported through the Suez take 45-60 days to reach Europe, compared to this INSTC route will take only 25-30 days. The potential of this corridor will be manifold not only for India but also for South-east Asian countries, once the link moves forward. This route has the potential to boost trade between Europe and South-east Asia.
Presently to trade with the Russians, India depends on the sea route via Rotterdam to St Petersburg. To reach out to central Asia, goods have to be routed through China, Europe or Iran. The routes through China and Europe are long, expensive and time consuming. Thus arose the need for a route that was relatively shorter, cheaper and safe. This corridor will help India to completely bypass Pakistan to reach central Asia and Russia and potentially get a competitive advantage due to lower cost and shorter delivery time. The first dry run was conducted in August 2014 by the Federation of Freight Forwarders Association in India. The dry run report stated that the proposed INSTC route via Bandar Abbas in Iran to Russia and CIS (commonwealth of independent states) destination in transit through Iran could be the best route with optimal transit/costs.
India is moving ahead with its plans of accessing transnational multi-modal connectivity to articulate its role in the proposed transportation architecture in the region and beyond. This follows India’s decision to become the 71st signatory to Transports Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transports (TIR) Convention—an international transit system, designed to facilitate the seamless movement of goods throughout these countries in Asia and Europe.
This successful venture by India will also leverage Chabahar to mak INSTC a viable proposition and has potential to marginalize Gwadar Port now being developed by China on Baluchistan Coast. “We have to make best use of Chabahar which can open the entire central Asia to us,” said Saurabh Chandra, former secretary in the department of industrial policy and promotion. India plans to develop Chabahar port in Iran, which will allow access to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia through the Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla ports on India’s west coast. In addition, India has built a 218km-road link connecting Delaram with Zaranj in Afghanistan, which is adjacent to Iran’s border.Indian Railways also plans to set up a Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) route of Dhaka-Kolkata-Delhi-Amritsar-Lahore-Islamabad-Zahedaan-Tehran-Istanbul.Besides, India has been instrumental in implementing the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, along with the Bangladesh -Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement.
No wonder China wants that somehow India should join its initiative of CPEC.