India gave its nod to become member of multilateral Ashgabat Agreement in March 2016. This move is considered as economically and strategically gainful. Ashgabat Agreement is an agreement to develop an International transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and Persian Gulf.

It is inked in 2011 by Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and Qatar (which left in 2013) and later joined by Kazakhstan and now India .This is going to improve India’s trade and commercial relation with Eurasian region. Ashgabat agreement will further the connectivity though India funded International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and is logical outcome of India’s much talked Connect Central Asia Policy and Look West Policy. The Foreign Trade Policy 2015-20 also emphasises on enhancing trade with Central Asian and Eurasian region which includes many economically and strategically important countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and so on for India.

Agreement is a step to re-energise ties with Iran which 5th largest oil supplier to India following the lifting of sanctions and also will complement to the eco-strategically important Chhabahar port in Iran. Strategically it will place India in equivalent position with respect to China’s OBOR initiative and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

This agreement is useful in diversifying India’s trade and ensuring energy-security and transit to EU. Central Asian region can become important block in India’s march to gain deserved position in international fora and organisations.

INSTC: – It is a multi-modal trade transport network that includes rail, road, and water transport from Mumbai in India via Bandar Abbas in Iran to Moscow in Russia. The concept was initiated by Russia, India and Iran in September 2000 to establish transportation networks among the member states and to enhance connectivity with the land locked region of Central Asia. The INSTC envisages movement of goods from Mumbai (India) to Bandar Abbas (Iran) by sea, from Bandar Abbas to Bandar-e-Anzali (an Iranian port on the Caspian Sea) by road, and then from Bandar-e-Anzali to Astrakhan (a Caspian port in the Russian Federation) by ship across the Caspian Sea, and thereafter from Astrakhan to other regions of the Russian Federation and further into Europe by Russian railways. INSTC could facilitate India’s economic integration with Eurasian economies and other countries in surrounding regions.

Shashank Lakhote

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