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Join us, don't fight us: Iran invites Pakistan to be part of Chabahar project with India

Pakistan has repeatedly expressed concerns over India's involvement in the development of Chabahar Port for geopolitical reasons as well as the threat to its Gwadar Port project.

Join us, don't fight us: Iran invites Pakistan to be part of Chabahar project with India
The Chabahar Port has been jointly developed by India and Iran. (Picture: Chabahar Port)

Iran has invited Pakistan to become a part of the Chabahar project, Pakistani media have reported. The move would likely put pressure on the Pakistani policy making apparatus, since it would have to weigh involvement in a project that would make it part of a corridor that undercuts its geographical advantage and offers to cut down on India's strategic advantage, against the setback it could deal to its own ambitions over the nearby Gwadar Port.

The offer came from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who is presently on a three-day visit to Pakistan, the Dawn newspaper reported. Iran's offer may also be seen as a move to placate Pakistan's deep misgivings over India's long-standing involvement in the Chabahar Port project.

The Chabahar Port has given India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. These were regions where it had become unviable for India to interact with since most connectivity options ran through Pakistan, with whom India has perpetually strained relations. In November 2017, India successfully delivered an aid shipment of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port. 

"We offered to participate in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). We have also offered Pakistan and China to participate in Chabahar," Zarif said, according to Pakistani media.

He also repeated Iran's commitment that it would not allow India to carry out any activities against Pakistan. To underline this, he pointed to Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran's single major foreign policy irritant in its neighbourhood. "Our relations with India, just like Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia, are not against Pakistan as we understand Pakistan's relations with Saudi Arabia are not against Iran," he said. 

This is hardly the first connectivity project that Iran has tried to work out with Pakistan on board. After years of trying to make the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline a reality, Iran and India had given up on Pakistan. The Chabahar Port, which was developed jointly by India and Iran, was aimed at linking the two countries without having to rely on Pakistan.