Experts divided on economic benefit of Chabahar Port

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, speaks during the inauguration of a newly built extension of the port of Chabahar, near the Pakistani border, on the Gulf of Oman, southeastern Iran, Sunday. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2017

Experts divided on economic benefit of Chabahar Port

NEW DELHI: Afghanistan has called Sunday’s inauguration of the first phase of Iran’s Chabahar Port “the beginning of a new era of connectivity and a huge leap of faith.”
“Chabahar will allow the whole region to be connected without any obstacle,” said Shaida Mohammad Abdali, the Afghan ambassador to India. “We have broken the chain of disconnectivity.”
The Afghan ambassador is referring to the breakdown in the trade connectivity at the Wagah border, which was the normal route of trade between India and Afghanistan passing through Pakistan. The opening of the Chabahar port restores that economic connectivity.
Abdali told Arab News, “We have a saying that no matter how high the altitude, there is a way to the top. Today, we have found a way between the two countries, India and Afghanistan, through Chabahar.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of the port, on the Gulf of Oman, on Sunday, in the presence of leaders from India and Afghanistan. The port offers a new strategic route that bypasses Pakistan and connects Iran, India and Afghanistan, and reflects a growing convergence of political and economic interests between the three countries.
“The routes of the region should be connected through land, sea and air,” Rouhani said after the inauguration.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that the port would “provide alternative access to landlocked Afghanistan into regional and global markets… an integrated development of connectivity infrastructure including ports, road and rail networks would open up greater opportunities for regional market access and contribute towards the economic integration and benefit of the three countries and the region.”
However, Phunchok Stobdan, a former Indian ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and a distinguished academic, questions the economic viability of the port.
“In terms of slogans, yes, you can call it a new era of connectivity. But how much substance is there, we don’t know. It is just a beginning. It is more about political opportunism than economic benefits, as I see it,” said Stobdan, who is also a senior fellow at New Delhi-based think tank, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).
“What do you want to export and what you want to import?” he continued. “There are no high-value items to trade between India and Afghanistan.
“I feel the Indian government should also work out some mechanism to open the Wagah border,” he continued. “But Pakistan has been using the strategy of denial for very long time. It is working in their favor. It is a larger political issue; it is not an economic or connectivity issue.”
Stobdan also claimed that “the significance lies in the fact that, before Trump puts (forward) lots of objections, India has been brought into the picture.”
The Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran’s southern coast, is seen by some as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port — which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located around 85 km from Chabahar — and, by extension to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
“We can say lot, but the economy will speak,” Stobdan said. “You think the Chinese did not know about the Chabahar port? They knew. The market is in Pakistan. The market is in India. The market is not in the Sististan-Baluchistan area.”
Afghan ambassador Abdali said: “The Chabahar port will be open to everyone. All the stakeholders and I hope that no one thinks of it as a counter to any other initiatives. At the same time, I consider it a major development for the whole region.”


Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

Updated 19 min 14 sec ago

Kim Jong Un supervises another North Korean military drill

  • North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days
  • Kim Jong un has urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies ‘armed to the teeth’ while attending a flight demonstration

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a parachuting drill of military sharpshooters and vowed to build an “invincible army,” displaying more defiance even as the United States and South Korea called off their own exercises to create space for nuclear diplomacy.
The report Monday by the Korean Central News Agency came hours after President Donald Trump in a tweet urged Kim to “act quickly, get the deal done” while hinting at another summit, writing, “See you soon!”
At an Asian defense ministers’ conference in Bangkok on Sunday, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States has indefinitely postponed a joint military exercise with South Korea in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea. Diplomats have been pushing to resume stalled nuclear talks ahead of Kim’s end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to salvage the diplomacy.
North Korea has publicized two military drill in three days. A report Saturday said Kim urged combat pilots to prepare against enemies “armed to the teeth” while attending a flight demonstration.
KCNA published photos that showed Kim posing with North Korean air force sharpshooters and soldiers who used white parachutes to land on a training field.
Kim while supervising the drill said it’s “necessary to wage a drill without notice under the simulated conditions of real war” for improving his military’s war readiness and build it into an “invincible army,” KNCA said. Kim did not make any specific comment toward Washington or Seoul in the report.
North Korea has been ramping up missile tests and other military demonstrations in recent months in an apparent pressure tactic over the talks.
Negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam, which broke down after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim issued an end-of-year deadline for the Trump administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a deal while saying that the North would seek a “new path” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure.
Working-level talks last month in Sweden broke down over what the North Koreans described as the Americans’ “old stance and attitude.”
North Korea last week said the United States has proposed a resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations in December. But North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil didn’t clearly say whether the North would accept the supposed U.S. offer and said the country has no interest in talks if they are aimed at buying time without discussing solutions.
He said the North isn’t willing to make a deal over “matters of secondary importance,” such as possible US offers to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted by a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, or establish a liaison office between the countries.