The Position of Chabahar in Deepening Cooperation between Iran and Central Asia

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Professor, Regional Studies Department, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 A PhD Candidate, in Regional Studies, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran



Introduction: After the end of the bipolar system, by changing the geopolitical and geostrategic dynamics of the Eurasian environment, a new space for conflict and competition between governments was created in order to use the existing opportunities. In this regard, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as one of the important players in the region and the international system, tried to play an important role in this new game by recognizing the independence of the Central Asian countries and establishing political and economic relations with these countries. But gradually and with the subsidence of the collapse fever, the position of Central Asia in Iran's foreign policy decreased and space was opened for Iran's rivals in the region. Currently, the volume of trade between Iran and Central Asian countries clearly shows that Iran is not even among the top 10 trading partners of Central Asian countries.
On the other hand, in recent years, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, governments have addressed the issue of transportation and strategic corridors to the extent that they seek to strengthen regional and extra-regional cooperation and convergence within these corridors. Today, strategic corridors and ports, with the participation and assistance of the countries of the region can create a suitable ground for the formation and strengthening of convergence and cooperation in the region. In this regard, China and Pakistan are looking for their economic and strategic interests in the framework of the huge project China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the development of the port of Gwadar. China's $ 46 billion investment in the corridor is designed to bypass the Straits of Malacca and the long Indian Ocean route.
 In addition to high economic costs, the passage of Chinese commercial ships through the Strait of Malacca poses security risks for China due to the strong presence of India and the United States in the region. On the other hand, Chabahar is the focal point of Iran for the development and expansion of the communication routes of the countries located in the northern part of the Indian Ocean and Central Asia. Due to its unique geographical location, Chabahar is one of the 10 most important ports in the world, which can be transformed into a mega port. In confirming the transit advantage of Chabahar port, it is important to mention that in the program of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the shores of the Oman Sea, where Chabahar port is located, is known as the closest intercontinental energy transfer route.
Reserch question: What factors will strengthen and deepen regional cooperation and improve Iran's relations with Central Asian countries?
Research Hypothesis: Chabahar Port and the North-South Corridor play an important role in facilitating cooperation and improving Iran's economic relations with Central Asia.
Methodology and theoretical framework: The authors use Cantori and Spiegel model and especially emphasize the extra-regional influencing factor. According to Cantori and Spiegel, the region is a concept based on a combination of geographical proximity and political context, increasing interactions, expanding the framework of common institutions and common cultural identities. For their study, they use a qualitative method with a descriptive-analytical approach.
Results and discussion: Currently, the Central Asian region has become the scene of competition between regional and extra-regional powers. The importance of this region is such that two of the six branches of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative pass through the countries of Central Asia, but at the same time, this region is landlocked and to access international open waters, it is necessary to cross other countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran and especially the Chabahar port has the capacity to connect Central Asian countries to international open waters. But on the other hand, Gwadar port as a rival port of Chabahar has attracted the attention of Central Asian countries as well as China. China and Pakistan plan to increase the capacity of Gwadar port to 400 million tons per year in 2045. China is also trying to make Gwadar port a hub port capable of simultaneously berthing 88 motherships by 2050, which will tip the balance in South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, East, and South Asia in favor of competitors.
Conclusion: Today, strategic corridors and ports can create the basis for the formation and strengthening of convergence and cooperation in the region if the countries of the region participate and help in different dimensions. Currently, China and Pakistan are looking for their economic and strategic interests in the framework of the huge project “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)” and the development of Gwadar port as a jewel of the strategic relations of the two countries. China's $46 billion investment in the CPEC Corridor is designed to bypass the Strait of Malacca and the long Indian Ocean route. By launching Chabahar-Sarkhs railway lines and trying to attract the participation of Central Asian countries in this field by inviting Indian investors, Chabahar port can create conditions for deepening and expanding cooperation between Iran and Central Asia and improving Iran's position in the region. If active socio-economic diplomacy is pursued, in addition to Chabahar port, the North-South Corridor will have a serious impact on Iran's economic and trade relations with Central Asian countries.


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