Iran’s recent decision to drop India from the Chabahar-Zahidan railway line project has been the subject of some consternation in Indian strategic circles. The development has generated disquiet in New Delhi, where some have questioned the timing of the move by Iran. As Indian observers see it, the railway line was part of a strategic endeavour: the development of Chabahar port and an associated rail-links to circumvent Pakistan and its traditional obstruction of India’s overland routes into Central Asia and Afghanistan. Amidst US sanctions, as Delhi searched for suppliers and funding, Tehran suddenly (and unilaterally) decided to go it alone. Oddly, this comes at a time when China has made itself available to assist in the project.
More worrying for Indian watchers is the prospect of a comprehensive military and trade partnership between Iran and China. Beijing, ostensibly, has undertaken to invest $400 billion in key sectors of Iran’s economy, in return for an assured supply of Iranian fuel for the next 25 years.