Railway Politics: India Gets Lost Along the New Silk Roads

Railway Politics: India Gets Lost Along the New Silk Roads Author: Tom Luongo for Gold, Goats and Guns

The ground is quickly shifting in Asia and India is quickly finding itself in a difficult position.

For years India has dithered and played games over central Asian development. Since the rise of Narendra Modi as India’s leader, he has played the game of courting both the West and the East to wheedle India a better position.

Modi shifted India back towards a pro-West position immediately after taking over. He’s famously dragged his feet on major infrastructure projects in Central Asia, continuing India’s dreams of outmaneuvering China to become the central power of the Heartland.

So, color me not shocked to see just days after the $400+ billion mega-deal between China and Iran is announced to be close to completion, Iran gives India the boot over delays involving an important infrastructure project.

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.

India has played footsie with Iran for two years now over major projects like this rail line since President Trump unilaterally pulled out of the JCPOA and began his maximum pressure campaign on Iran.

This all comes down to Modi who has pulled India away from Iran as the pressure ramps up versus being one of the few countries willing to flout U.S. sanctions back in 2012/3 when President Obama put them on the first time.

Back then India and Iran traded oil for goods and/or local currency. India is still a major energy importer and they’ve purposefully strained relations with their energy-rich neighbor.

Go back to November 2017 when Gazprom announced preliminary work on a new version of the long-delayed IPI Pipeline — Iran, Pakistan, India. Since that announcement very little work has been done.

The IPI pipeline, like other major Russian pipelines, like South Stream, Nordstream 2 and Turkstream, has long been fought aggressively by the U.S. going back 20 years.

We’ve pushed for the TAPI Pipeline to come down from Turkmenistan and through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. And, indeed, the Turkmen national gas company has laid the first 200 miles of the project to the Afghan border but it cannot secure the funding to go further.

Urged on by the U.S. to begin the project, which was supposed to be finished this year, Turkmenistan is now stuck with an unfinished, uneconomical boondoggle since the U.S. could never deliver on its promises to control the ground needed in Afghanistan nor cut a deal with the Taliban to ensure its passage.

The whole thing is a mess while the IPI pipeline remains stalled, exactly as Washington wants it.

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