The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
- Russia, India and Iran are the founding member states of INSTC. The agreement was signed in 2002.
- The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
- The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali, etc.
- Dry runs of two routes were conducted in 2014, the first was Mumbai to Baku via Bandar Abbas and the second was Mumbai to Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Bandar Anzali.
- The objective of the study was to identify and address key bottlenecks.
- The results showed transport costs were reduced by “$2,500 per 15 tons of cargo
- Other routes under consideration include via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
- The estimated capacity of the corridor is 20-30 million tonnes of goods per year.
- INSTC would enhance accessibility to the landlocked Central Asian nations.
- It is not a new concept. This ancient route was used by European, Indian and many
other foreign traders to reach out to the Central Asian markets. During the time of the Safavid dynasty, it is estimated that around 10,000 Indian traders were spread across the empire. (Safavids were one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Persia (modern Iran) from 1501 to 1736.)
- The modern-day INSTC is a multi-modal transportation route linking the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and then onwards to northern Europe via St. Petersburg in Russia.
- The earlier trade route connecting India and Russia was through the Suez Canal.
- Hence the major objective of INSTC corridor was to reduce the time taken, costs incurred and increase connectivity between major cities like Mumbai, Moscow, Astrakhan(located in Russia), Baku (Azerbaijan), Tehran, Bandar Abbas and Bandar Anzail (All located in Iran).
India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ and INSTC
- With the coming of the new millennium, we are seeing a protracted effort from the Central government to connect with our ‘extended neighbourhood’.
- This is obvious from the Look-East-turned-Act-East policy, Link West policy etc.
- One of the significant corners in our extended neighbourhood is Central Asia, with which we aim to re-connect, with our Connect Central Asia policy, pronounced in 2012.
- Central Asia as a podium has received renewed interests after the swearing-in of the new Government. India attaining full membership in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), PM Modi’s historic visit to the five Central Asian countries etc. stand testimony to this.
- INSTC, or International North-South Transport Corridor, receives special mention in India-Central Asia relations.
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