India is tacitly countering China’s BRI with a 7,200 km transport corridor

The 7,200 km International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) linking India and Russia is now quickly coming to life after years of slow starts. A number of new agreements are due to be signed next month at the international economic forum in Kazan, a city in south-west Russia. The agreements aim to remove current operational barriers.

As India and Russia are determined to boost bilateral economic activities, including trade, amid shifting geopolitical dynamics, the push toward the geopolitical dynamic-changing corridor has increased.

“We intend to sign a number of addendum agreements, primarily for transport services. We have the north-south corridor where we want to reach Iran and India via Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. We will sign several agreements in this area,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.

Last week, a 50-strong Indian business delegation was in Russia to explore other ways to boost trade between the two countries, which are also holding talks on a free trade deal.

The INSTC aims to facilitate cargo movement between several countries, including India, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, among others. The first cargo from Nhava Sheva Port was flagged out in November last year.

Recently, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiyani discussed the progress of the project at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) defense ministers’ meeting.

The agreement, initiated by India, Russia and Iran in September 2000 in St. Petersburg, was signed in 2002. “Now all parties, especially India, Iran and Russia, are working to bring the INSTC to life,” SilkRoad Briefing said.

India has focused on improving connectivity not only within the country but even outside of it. This is one in a series of international initiatives in which India is involved, while also clearly forming part of India’s international strategy, beginning in South Asia, to counter the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Trends Research and Advisory.

In addition to the INSTC, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is also expected to start a liner service connecting India with the Gulf States and the Western Mediterranean. The shipping service, which is expected to begin in December, will begin at the Islamic port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

It will then call at Jebel Ali in South West Dubai, Mundra and Nhava Sheva in India, Djibouti in Africa, Gioia, Tauro, Salerno and Genoa in Italy, Barcelona and Valencia in Spain, Marsaxlokk in Malta, King Abdullah which is Saudi Arabia newly opened port facility.

“India has been quietly boosting its connectivity with various countries through massive infrastructure construction beyond its borders, something to address the challenges posed by the China-led Belt and Road Initiative,” an analyst told India Narrative. He added that while the BRI project is economically unviable at many stages, this is not the case with the India-led infrastructure push.

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