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India initiates rail route plan through Central Asia

India has taken the lead in what it calls “kickstarting” an “international north-south corridor” from Iran to Russia via Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to ensure a seamless connectivity to Central Asia

India has taken the lead in what it calls “kickstarting” an “international north-south corridor” from Iran to Russia via Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to ensure a seamless connectivity to Central Asia. New Delhi wants this corridor to be operational by 2013.

Government sources said here on Wednesday that New Delhi met interlocutors from these partner countries in January to initiate the process. The plan,kept under the wraps so far,is in keeping with the the country’s “Look Central Asia policy”.

In this context,experts have identified the “missing links” in rail connectivity. “There is road connectivity,but what we want is a seamless rail connectivity. This will ensure a faster,a more hassle-free and less expensive way to transport goods through Iran to the Central Asian countries and further north to Russia,” a government source said.

What has not deterred India is additional sanctions on Iran by the US and EU,and Washington’s calls for snapping ties with Tehran.

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Sources said that Iran and this corridor — which will be essentially rail-based — is India’s gateway to the Central Asian countries. “They are vital to our interests,since they border with either Afghanistan or China,” the source said. Three of the Central Asian countries share border with Afghanistan,while three others with China. India wants to build economic linkages with the markets in these countries. “We also need to engage them since there are no direct links with any of the Central Asian countries,” said official sources.

New Delhi is talking to all these countries to work on the feasibility of the corridor,and they are looking at operationalising the link at the earliest.

First published on: 01-03-2012 at 03:32:43 am
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