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EghtesadOnline: Russia and India can bolster mutual trade by overcoming their geographical distance by taking a route that takes advantage of Iran's strategic coastlines, a university professor wrote in a commentary on Russia-India relations.

Iran's geopolitical significance as the link between the Caspian Sea and international waters to its south is a crucial factor for the two countries as they are trying to cope with China's growing economic influence, Mandana Tisheyar said in an article for Iranian Diplomacy, according to Financial Tribune.

Tisheyar, a professor at Allameh Tabataba'i University, pointed to the high tide in trilateral ties among Iran, Russia and India by explaining the value of the International North–South Transport Corridor, a massive project that connects India to Central Asia and Europe via Iran and Azerbaijan.

The INSTC project is a major transit route designed to facilitate the transportation of goods from Mumbai in India to Helsinki in Finland, using Iranian ports and railroads, which the Islamic Republic plans to connect to those of Azerbaijan and Russia.

INSTC would substantially cut the travel time for everything from Asian consumer goods to Central Asia’s natural resources to advanced European exports.

Tisheyar noted that besides capturing the Central Asian market, China has made unprecedented business investments in Pakistan, raising the alarm for Russia and India. 

"To counter China’s vigorous pursuit of economic gains, Russia has founded the Eurasian Economic Union and India has heavily invested in ports and sensitive waterways," she said.

India's heavy investments in Iran's Chabahar Port, a strategic facility that lets the Asian country bypass unsafe Pakistani routes, is part of the INSTC initiative.

Tehran's agreement with India and Afghanistan to develop its southern Chabahar Port was first proposed in 2003 but suspended after the tightening of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Although the sanctions remain in place, India's dealings in Chabahar Port have been granted a waiver by the US, which sees India as an ally in curbing Chinese influence in world markets.

According to the professor, Iran can play an intermediary role in Russia-India ties by completing the construction of railroads, tunnels and bridges. 

Last year, Iran finally inaugurated the Qazvin-Rasht railroad. A rail route connecting Rasht to Astara on the border with Azerbaijan is another missing link along INSTC.

Tisheyar concluded that China's “transport diplomacy” has galvanized reciprocal action by Russia and India, and Iran's geopolitical ambitions can be realized if "infrastructure funds" are channeled to promote the INSTC project.


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