Russia-India corridor now goes east, middle and west
The eastern branch of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a fact. Six trains are currently en route overland, from Russia to India via Turkmenistan and Iran. These trains indicate the increased interest in transport by rail from Russia to India, as multiple routes are unfolding on the corridor.
On Saturday, the Iranian press announced the arrival of the second train from Russia on its territory. The train had crossed the border in Sarakhs in the northeast, after it had crossed Turkmenistan. Immediately following the announcement, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) Seyed Miad Salehi revealed that another five trains had departed from Moscow, following the same route. All are carrying fertilsers.
Western, middle and eastern branch
The route via Turkmenistan and Iran is referred to as the eastern branch of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC). This branch was officially launched with the first train making the journey in July this year. After crossing the border at Sarakhs, the journey continues across Iran to Bandar Abbas, the port in the south of Iran from where vessels take the cargo to India.
The INSTC now has a western, middle and southern branch. The western branch is the original route, which leads through Azerbaijan and Iran. The middle branch was recently established and involves a sea leg over the Caspian Sea. The Russian ports are used on this branch, but also the port of Turkmenbashi, which officially joined the corridor in August this year.
Iran at the centre
In all cases, transit through Iran is inevitable, and the country is well aware of its role on the corridor. At the moment, there are some missing links on the railway network, due to which transit is often carried out by truck. But the government has promised to complete the missing links, as the corridor has gained significance this year.
First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber in July stressed the Iranian government’s determination for expanding trade with neighboring countries, when the first train via Turkmenistan entered Iranian ground. As Tehran Times reported, he said: “The transit capacity of the country has increased to 20 million tons and by planning and taking appropriate measures, transiting 300 million tons of commodities per year can be reached.”
The North-South International Transport Corridor was established years ago with the aim to reduce journey times between Mumbai and Moscow from forty to fourteen days. However, there was little incentive to complete the missing links until this year, when the cards on the table were reshuffled.
Due to the war in Ukraine and the consequent sanctions imposed on Russia, Russia is looking to diversify its trading routes, and the corridor is the perfect route for this. It is therefore not surprising that traffic is starting to increase on the corridor, and different routes are starting to unfold.