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Russia developing North-South Corridor for business with India, Iran, and Pakistan

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MOSCOW : President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said Russia is developing the ambitious North-South Transport Corridor, which will open up new routes for business cooperation with India, Iran and Pakistan, as well as West Asian countries.

In his one hour and 45 minutes State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, Putin also said that Russia will expand promising international economic connections, as well as build new supply corridors, as the US-led West has imposed crippling sanctions for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine nearly one year ago.

“We will develop the ports of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, we will particularly focus on the North-South International Corridor,” Putin said, noting that it will open up new routes for business cooperation with India, Iran, Pakistan as well as West Asian countries.

“We will continue developing this corridor,” Putin was quoted as saying by the state-run Tass news agency.

“What areas should the state, regions, and local businesses focus their partnership work on? First, we will expand promising international economic connections and build new supply corridors,” he said in the speech days before the Ukraine war’s first anniversary on Friday.

He said a decision has already been taken to extend the Moscow-Kazan highway to Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Tyumen, and in the future — to Irkutsk and Vladivostok, and potentially — to Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China, which will particularly expand Russia’s economic ties with the markets of Southeast Asia.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

The INSTC is India’s vision and initiative to reduce the time taken for EXIM shipments to reach Russia and Europe, and enter the Central Asian markets.

During a visit to Yerevan in Armenia in October 2021, External Affairs Minister Shri S Jaishankar proposed that the strategic Chabahar Port in Iran be included in the North-South Transport Corridor that has the potential to bridge connectivity barriers.

The Chabahar port in the Sistan-Balochistan province in the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port located at a distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.

The first phase of the Chabahar port was inaugurated in December 2017 by then-Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan by passing Pakistan.

The Chabahar port is being considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, besides ramping up trade among the three countries in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi.

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