The supreme leader’s approval of the agreement could be why the Indian premier succeeded in inking such a key deal in Tehran very quickly, though some pundits argue that Tehran is now seeking to use its deal with India as a motive to encourage other regional nations — namely Pakistan and China — to get involved in the Chabahar project. New Delhi has been sitting on the project since 2003, but an Iranian official recently unveiled that Tehran first asked rival Pakistan to help develop the port city.
Sanctions on Iran had posed a big obstacle, but now that they are gone New Delhi can push ahead, outflanking Pakistan and challenging Chinese dominance in the region. Iran is the “only way” for India to access Central Asia and Russia, India’s key regional partners, Quartz India reported May 24, citing Christine Fair, an associate professor at Georgetown University. Fair also noted that “India has significant hydrocarbon needs and Iran will remain an important source,” an issue also pointed out by Khamenei in his meeting with Modi.
Chabahar port is being developed to facilitate trade between the two countries, but the deal will definitely also have political benefits for both sides. The Islamic Republic seeks to foster its ties with Eastern nations to avoid external pressures such as the US-led nuclear-related sanctions in the future. In this vein, the two sides also agreed to cooperate on terrorism and consult each other on regional stability, according to a report published May 24 by Times of India. Khamenei’s official website said that in his meeting with the supreme leader, the Indian prime minister criticized certain countries for dividing terrorism into “good” and “bad” and accused them of “paying lip service” in their campaign against terror.