The Hindu’s article of how Iran ‘dropped’ India from Chabahar rail project caused a huge flutter in India in the backdrop of massive Chinese investments in Iran. It created a widespread anti-Iran sentiments in the country, while India’s Foreign Policy being panned. Turns out, it was nothing but a figment of imagination from The Hindu which can irreparably hurt the bilateral relations between India and Iran.
The Hindu in its article, “Iran drops India from Chabahar rail project, cites funding delay” written by its national and diplomatic affairs editor, Suhasini Haider who used terminology that was aimed at sensationalising the development. It set off outrage in India against Iran.
Both Iran and India unequivocally junked the report, but it was already too late as the report went viral with widespread anti-Iran sentiment noticed on Indian twitter.
An Iranian official, Farhad Montaser said the story was “totally false because Iran has not inked any deal with India regarding the Chabahar-Zahedan railway,” reported Al Jazeera. Montaser added, “Iran has only signed two agreements with Indians for investment in Chabahar: one is related to the port’s machinery and equipment, and the second is related to India’s investment to the tune of $150 million.”
However, according to TOI, Iran was expecting India to play a role in the project, and India too has said that it is committed to building the railway line. With a supposed delay in India’s moves, Iran has now decided to go at it alone, a decision which can be read as a nudge as Tehran seeks to overcome hurdles to the project, and also improved economic ties with India amid US sanctions.
It has been interpreted as India’s receding influence in Tehran in the backdrop of increasing Chinese investments. However, reactions from New Delhi and Tehran now indicate that this is Iran’s call for India to expedite the Chabahar project.
Haider in her report claimed, “Four years after India and Iran signed an agreement to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, along the border with Afghanistan, the Iranian government has decided to proceed with the construction on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in funding and starting the project.”
With an MOU signed between IRCON and the CDITC of Iran had enabled India to work on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, with India ‘committing’ to do the same. However, India has been caught with the business of shipping material, particularly steel, because of American sanctions.
With this supposed delay, Tehran has decided to go at it alone for now, but has said that, “the doors are open” for India. According to The Print, a senior Iranian government source said, “We are funding the project ourselves now… But still the doors are open for India, it is open to IRCON.” In fact, Iran has stated that there is ‘no limit’ to its relations with India.
The fact of the matter is that Tehran simply wants the project to keep going, and has nudged India into making it work.
At such a delicate time, such terminologies and insinuations should have been avoided. Tehran hasn’t shunted India out of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail project. It has only given a very subtle message that India shouldn’t take Iran lightly and the strategic Chabahar port for granted. And Indian policymakers already know that Beijing is desperately waiting for a window of opportunity in Tehran.
Indian journalists must be careful in their reporting as such sensationalisation of matters can have serious repercussions on bilateral relations.