Skip to main content

Iran plays Pakistan, China against India as Modi turns to Trump

India’s apparent decision to go along with the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran could negatively impact its relationship with Tehran, including in regard to the Chabahar port project.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has recently kept busy with diplomatic visits to neighboring countries. On May 23, he arrived in Islamabad, his third trip to Pakistan since Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August 2018, and held talks with Khan, army chief Qamar Bajwa, Speaker Asad Qaisar and his counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Few details of the meetings were shared with the media, except for comments underscoring their focus on reducing tensions in the region and on connecting the Iranian port of Chabahar and the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

The fate of Chabahar has important consequences for relations between Iran and India, Pakistan's archrival. The port has been a focal point and pillar of an emerging partnership between Tehran and New Delhi over the past decade or so and is the only territorial facility that the Iranian government has been willing to lease to a foreign state. For India, Chabahar is vital to its strategies toward West Asia, Afghanistan and Central Asia. So far, India has notably managed to persuade the Donald Trump administration to exempt its presence there from sanctions. Yet, Iran is now talking about connecting Chabahar and the rival Chinese-Pakistani route, that is, Gwadar and the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.