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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Putin insists on INSTC to connect India; Describes it as a ‘really ambitious project’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has strongly promoted the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) via Iran as an important connectivity link between Russia and India, despite China’s move to the Eurasian region as a mega connectivity initiative. BRI has described it as a really ambitious project despite working hard.

Addressing the 6th Caspian Sea Summit on Wednesday in the presence of leaders from Central Asia and Iran, Putin made a special mention of the INSTC which connects India with Russia in the shortest possible time. He described the project, which is 7,200 km long, as a “transport artery from St. Petersburg to ports in Iran and India”. INSTC aims to connect the countries of the Caspian Sea region including Kazakhstan.

Earlier this month, Russia sent consignments to India from St Petersburg via the Caspian port of Astrakhan and the Iranian port of Anjali and from there to Bandar Abbas port and then to western Indian ports for INSTC operations. The consignments are two 40 ft containers of laminated wood weighing 41 tons. The total journey will take less than 25 days, as against the presently around 40 days it takes to transport goods from Russia to India and vice versa. Apart from reducing the time in the midst of current geopolitical challenges, INSTC is considered as a viable option for India-Russia trade.

In the long run, the INSTC would be an alternative to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, dominated by certain powers and the Bosporus, who did not wish to identify sources. It will also provide an alternative to BRI in the region. BRI connectivity projects in the Eurasian region connect Europe to China through the Central Asian states and Russia and give Beijing access to the resources of the Eurasian region. Beijing plans to connect Turkey and Iran through the BRI. In the SCO documents, India, in a shrewd diplomacy, has kept itself safe from supporting the BRI. According to India, the Chinese project violates sovereignty as it passes through PoK. In addition, the BRI is pushing countries into large debt.

Connectivity through Chabahar Port and INSTC tops the agenda for the Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to India in June. There is a plan to connect INSTC to the Chabahar port, which India has assisted in its expansion and is being used for connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

INSTC is a multimodal transport network consisting of sea, road and rail routes. It connects the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea via the Persian Gulf to Russia and northern Europe and provides the shortest contact route between them. The multimodal routes through sea, rail and road under INSTC aim to reduce the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30%.

The foundation of the North-South Transport Corridor was laid in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement signed between Russia, Iran and India on 12 September 2000. Azerbaijan joined the agreement in 2005. The agreement was ratified by 13 countries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Armenia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine). The project has several components: Northern and Western Europe– the Russian Federation, the Caucasus– the Persian Gulf (Western Route); Central Asia – Persian Gulf (Eastern Passage); Caspian Sea – Iran-Persian Gulf (midway).

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