New Delhi: Ten days after saying that China’s multinationals will benefit from India developing the Chabahar port for Iran, Beijing-run media is now painting the deal as part of India’s nefarious design for dominance in the Middle East, albeit one that will fail.
“Although New Delhi ostensibly highlights economic considerations, such as facilitating trade along the International North-South Transport Corridor and extracting minerals, natural gas and oil from the region, its larger geostrategic calculations and ambitions are obvious,” said an article today in the state-run Global Times.
Ten days after saying it isn’t ”jealous” that India beat China to score the $500 million Chabahar development deal, Beijing’s painting India’s deal as unworkable “high-sounding rhetoric”.
“Although India’s expectations of Chabahar and the sea-land route are running high, especially following the lifting of international financial sanctions against Iran, major challenges remain. India may not be able to meet its generous offers and high-sounding rhetoric,” it said.
Even though China expects India to fail, it still seems rather perturbed about India’s grandiose ambitions, which it says are meant to counter China and Pakistan.
“Actually, Chabahar is just the tip of the iceberg of India’s geostrategic ambitions. Besides building new berths and upgrades to Chabahar, what interests New Delhi more is a comprehensive scheme that can reshape India’s geopolitics to the northwest and extend its influence further into the Middle East, Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus,” the article goes on to say.
The fact is, the Chabahar port is easily accessed from India’s western coast and bypasses Pakistan. It will also give India entry into Afghanistan. Iran said as much. The Chabahar agreement, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said, “is not only an economic document: It’s also a political and a regional one.” He added: “With our joint investments in Chabahar, we can connect India through a reliable route to Afghanistan and countries in Central Asia.”
Beijing, though, is having none of this talk. It refuses to believe it, saying that going through Pakistan remains the most economical route for India.
“A direct gateway through Pakistan provides the shortest and the most economical access for India to enter Afghanistan and Central Asia. However, due to long-standing mistrust, Islamabad is reluctant to grant India access”, the Global Times article said. Then there’s the obligatory tom-tomming of its own much earlier deal with Pakistan — a 2012 agreement formalized in 2013 — to develop the Gwadar port. China and Pakistan are currently building a $46 billion economic corridor linking Gwadar port with Xinjiang.
Besides bypassing the overland blockage, India also views its investment in Chabahar as a counterweight against Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, a Chinese-funded deep sea port 72km east of Chabahar, the article said.
Then, the piece de resistance China cautions India about Iran. “Iran may not always align itself with India’s geostrategic goals. China is also crucial to Tehran’s core interests. Iran never publicly articulated its opposition to the Sino-Pakistani project in Gwadar. Instead, it had aided the project by providing fresh water and fuel,” it said.
If India expected too much from Iran, it is “bound for disappointment”, the article said.