Russian President Vladimir Putin has strongly pushed the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as the key connectivity link between Russia and India via Iran by describing it as a truly ambitious project notwithstanding China hard pressing BRI as a mega connectivity initiative in the Eurasian region.

Addressing the 6th Caspian Sea Summit on Wednesday in the presence of leaders from Central Asia and Iran, Putin made special reference to the INSTC that connects India with Russia within the shortest possible time. He described the project, which is 7,200-kilometre-long, as a “transport artery from St Petersburg to ports in Iran and India”. INSTC aims to connect Caspian Sea region countries, including Kazakhstan.

Earlier this month, Russia sent consignments for India from St Petersburg via the Caspian port of Astrakhan and the Iranian Port of Anzali and from there to Bandar Abbas Port and thereafter to Western Indian ports to operationalise INSTC. The consignments are two 40 feet containers of wood laminates weighing 41 tonnes. The total journey will take less than 25 days cutting the nearly 40 days it currently takes to transport goods from Russia to India and vice-versa. Besides reducing time, INSTC is considered a viable option for Indo-Russian trade amid current geo-political challenges.

In the long run, INSTC would be an alternative to the Suez Canal and Mediterranean dominated by some powers and the Bosporus, according to sources who did not wish to be identified. It will also provide an alternative to the BRI in the region. The BRI connectivity projects in the Eurasian region connects Europe to China via Central Asian states and Russia and gives Beijing access to resources of the Eurasian region. Beijing has plans to connect Turkey and Iran via BRI. In the SCO documents, India in a deft diplomacy, has kept itself immune from endorsing BRI. The Chinese project, according to India, violates sovereignty as it passes through PoK. Besides, BRI has been pushing countries towards mega debt.

Connectivity via Chabahar Port and INSTC topped the agenda of Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit to India in June. There has been a plan to link INSTC with Chabahar Port which India has assisted to expand and is being used for connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The INSTC is a multimodal transportation network encompassing sea, road, and rail routes. It links the Indian Ocean to the Caspian Sea via the Persian Gulf onwards into Russia and Northern Europe and offers the shortest connectivity route between them. Multimodal routes through sea, rail, and road under the INSTC aim to reduce the carriage cost between India and Russia by about 30%.

The foundation of the North-South transport corridor was laid on September 12, 2000, in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement signed between Russia, Iran, and India. Azerbaijan joined this agreement in 2005. This agreement was ratified by 13 countries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Armenia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine). The project has a number of components: Northern and Western Europe –– the Russian Federation, Caucasus –– Persian Gulf (Western route); Central Asia –– Persian Gulf (Eastern Route); Caspian Sea –– Iran-Persian Gulf (Central Route).

Source » indiatimes