It's politics of port which is dominating diplomacy in South Asia. India is currently eyeing to take forward the Chabahar Port project with Iran, which lost its focus once the western powers imposed sanctions on the West Asian country over its nuclear programmes. Under Narendra Modi's leadership, India is keen on the project as a counter move to negate the encirclement strategy which China and Pakistan has planned on its north-western side. [Chabahar Port agreement brings cheers in India]
Chabahar is a significant foreign policy footstep for India
The Chabahar Port just not cements the ties between India and Iran but it gives the former an access to Afghanistan and central Asia without touching Pakistan's soil. The agreement was made in 2003 when the NDA led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power but it was slowed down by the sanctions imposed on Iran later. [India needs post-sanctions Iran to counter China-Pakistan's encirclement strategy]
But with the Modi government facing bigger challenges from China and Pakistan and its initiative to make a sustainable peace with Pakistan not making a heady progress, the alternative plan lies in keeping the adversaries under pressure by reaching out to neighbours who are not immediate.
Chabahar will bring India-Iran-Afghanistan closer
Chabahar Port provides India a land-sea route to Afghanistan, which is expected to become a key player in the region in the days after the western forces pull out completely. New Delhi has already been spending big money for building infrastructure in Afghanistan and its plan to develop an Afghanistan-Iran-India axis in the region is bound to put Pakistan-China understanding under challenge---both geo-politically and economically.
Chabahar is India's reply to Gwadar, the China-run port in Pak located just 72 kms away
India is particularly keen to increase its involvement with the Chabahar Port as it sees in it a reply to the China-operated Gwadar Port in Pakistan. Separated by barely 72 kilometres, these two ports are not just trading and transit points but significant geo-political launch pads. While China has plans to use the Gwadar Port to get an access to the water bodies around India, the latter eyes to use the Chabahar Port to reach out to the land routes in central Asia, posing a competitive threat to China.
Modi showed urgency on Iran after China, Pak signed agreements last year
PM Modi's urgency in reaching out to Iran and other countries in the Persian Gulf region has been propelled by China's signing massive energy and infrastructure development projects worth $46 billion with Pakistan lin April 2015.
India went on with the port development despite US's warning
India started rushing some of its important ministers to Iran to launch initiative on various development projects and the two sides did so despite the US warning.
New Delhi felt developing the port did not amount to violation of the sanctions. India also ensured that the land-locked Afghanistan would be given an access to the sea through this project, hence reducing its reliance on Pakistan and bring it closer to its own fold in the greater power game of South Asia.
Iran also has its plans to benefit from the port. It wants India to set up a free-trade zone near Chabahar, just like the Chinese Overseas Ports Holding Company has agreed to help Pakistan create a free economic zone.
Geopolitical power struggle now is more focused on economy
Both these ports and the strategic politics around them prove that India and the Pakistan-China axis are now expanding the base of the competition, instead of limiting everything to bi-party conflicts. Both sides know that war and battles are meaningless and suicidal. The real victory today resides in checkmating the enemy through a power struggle which is more aimed at economic benefits.
Hence, ports are considered more significant than air bases in today's international affairs.