Chabahar port in Iran is only about 100 miles from Gwadar port in Pakistan. Both are natural deep sea ports in the Arabian sea.
Gwadar Extends into Deep Sea with East & West Bays
Eastern Half of Gwadar Port
Gwadar port's planned capacity when it is completed will be 300 to 400 million tons of cargo annually. It is comparable to the capacity of all of India's ports combined annual capacity of 500 million tons of cargo today. It is far larger than the 10-12 million tons cargo handling capacity planned for Chabahar.
Completed Gwadar Berths & Cranes
To put Gwadar's scale in perspective, let's compare it with the largest US port of Long Beach which handles 80 million tons of cargo, about a quarter of what Gwadar will handle upon completion of the project. Gawadar port will be capable of handling the world's largest container ships and massive oil tankers.
Gawadar port is being built in Pakistan by the Chinese as part of the ambitious $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will eventually serve as Hong Kong West for growing Chinese trade with the Middle East and Europe. CPEC will also enable Pakistan to bypass Afghanistan to trade with Central Asia through China across China's borders with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Gwadar Port Authority Building
Chabahar is ostensibly an Indian effort to build a port in Iran to bypass Pakistan for India's trade with landlocked Afghanistan and other Central Asian states. Prime Minister Modi has committed $500 million investment in Chabahar, a tiny fraction of the Chinese commitment for Gwadar. A trilateral agreement was recently signed in Tehran by Indian Prime Minister Modi, Iranian President Rouhani and Afghan President Ghani.
Trade with Afghanistan through Afghan-Iran border in the West will probably remain a pipe dream given that 1) most of Afghan population lives in east and south close to the border with Pakistan and 2) Afghanistan has very poor infrastructure making it very difficult to move cargo across land from west to east and south of the country.
Big Chinese Ship Docked at Gwadar
Pakistan suspects that India's real objective in Iran is to locate its intelligence agents under the cover of Chabahar port construction workers to sabotage China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and support Baloch insurgency to destabilize Pakistan. These suspicions were strengthened when Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadav, operating under the fake name Husain Mubarak Patel, was arrested in Balochistan in March this year. Yadav confessed he was operating as an undercover RAW agent from his base in Chabahar, Iran.
If Iran does nothing to stop Indian covert activities from its soil against Pakistan, Iran-Pakistan relations could suffer irreparable harm. Efforts to sabotage CPEC will not please China either, and the Chinese are far more important to Iran as trading partners than India. This should give pause to hardline anti-Pakistan sectarian elements in Tehran.
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