A multi-nation transport corridor that would radically reduce cargo transportation time between India on one side and Central Asia and Russia on the other with Iran being the pivot could see dry runs beginning next year.
A three-day meeting of experts from 16 countries discussed ways to smoothen the way for the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and at least six supplementary routes despite the U.S. pushing its Silk Road proposal in which its bete noire Iran has been excluded.
In stark contrast, Iran plays a crucial role in the multi-modal North-South Corridor as its port Bandar Abbas will be the hub of all activity. Experts proposed the setting up of two four-nation groups to resolve many of the ssues. Iran along with Russia and India (all three initiators of the project) will be in both groups.
The meeting on the INSTC which ended here on Wednesday proposed a joint venture between Iran, India, Russia and Azerbaijan to find solutions to aspects such as infrastructure and funding. It also suggested a core group on customs — India, Russia, Iran and Turkey — consisting of experts from these countries, based in Delhi to sort out issues.
When India pointed to the missing link of 500 km in Iran that could impede the project, Tehran gave some good news. It said 372 km of the Quazvin-Rasht-Astra was complete and the contractor identified 163 km of the Rasht-Astra route. But there were technical problems in the last leg leading up to Azerbaijan. The experts suggested that a fund may be created to help Iran complete the route as quickly as possible.
The meeting was aimed at achieving progress on four fronts — identifying the residual construction on the main North-South Corridor and the time frame for completion of the work, identification of bottlenecks and action plan for the resolution, action plan along with the time frame for harmonisation of customs and insurance documents and procedures and identification of complementary routes and their status and actionable points for member-countries.
The experts indicated the need for funds to the tune of $700 million (over Rs. 4,000 crores) to ensure that portions of the proposed East-West corridor connecting the Persian Gulf to Central Asia and China could be linked to the North-South corridor.