New Delhi: When India and Iran had signed the multi-million dollar deal to develop the strategic Chabahar Port, China had reacted with caution saying it wasn't “jealous” and that its own multinationals stand to benefit from the agreement.
However, days later the tone has changed and Beijing has now labelled the deal as part of India's nefarious designs in the Middle East.
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an article on Tuesday: “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."
The Beijing-run paper further said the $500 million Chabahar development deal was unworkable "high-sounding rhetoric" and bound to fail.
"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.
"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 added.
Through the Chabahar Port, India seeks to access Iran from its western coast bypassing Pakistan and further secure entry into Afghanistan, The Times of India reported.
When the agreement was signed, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had said, "(The deal) is not only an economic document, it's also a political and a regional one. With our joint investments in Chabahar, we can connect India through a reliable route to Afghanistan and countries in Central Asia."
However, China still believes for India, passing through Pakistan continues to be the most economical route.
“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 Chinese paper further stated.