1237 GMT December 09, 2022
Chairman of the Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce
During the 10 months that have passed since the new administration took office, the Islamic Republic of Iran has improved its relations and expanded its cooperation with the neighboring countries. In effect, the administration has rightly prioritized its neighbors as well as China and India in its foreign policy.
Neighbors are natural economic partners to each other. In every region of the world, one can usually find many trade unions formed between neighboring countries. Political and economic relations are, of course, not limited to neighbors, but neighbors are understandably given precedence.
Iran’s relations with some of its neighboring states including Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been compromised due to some minor issues, leaving available capacities for political, security, and economic cooperation unrealized. Now that the incumbent administration has removed the obstacles to strengthening cooperation, there is room for hope.
I would specifically like to highlight the favorable economic and cultural capacities that Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan provide for Iran. Since Central Asian countries are landlocked and do not have access to open waters, transit routes are of major importance to them, which opens up the opportunity for Iran to reap multiple benefits.
Historically, Iran is known as a trading country rather than an industrial country. Most historic trade roads connecting East and West, North and South once passed through Iran. However, in the last 200 years, we haven’t been able to maintain or repair these historic routes.
Presently, there are three zones through which we can get linked to international routes and make use of Iran’s transit capacities, namely through Sarakhs in Khorasan Razavi province, Incheboroun in Golestan province, and the Caspian port of Anzali province.
Iranians commonly believe that their country has been blessed with abundant sources of minerals and precious metals, but I say that the significance of Iran’s geographical position and transit capacity is no less.
Some may not consider the development of roads and rail routes for transportation and transit purposes to be the most economic option compared to sea routes. However, given the issues that the international system has caused for our shipping, we must seek alternatives, and railways are our best alternative. Currently, 30 percent of Iran’s trade is with China. Iran and Russia are the only countries with large reserves of oil and gas ready to be exported to China via land. Yet, the opportunity is seized only when we pay more attention to transit and developing railways.
The majority of Iran’s commercial railways run from the North to Bandar Abbas port in the South, but we can break this trade habit and diversify our routes. For instance, instead of transporting our rocks from the northeast to the south, we can export them to Central Asian countries via railways.
Developing transit requires less investment than large-scale industries and is much more environmentally friendly. It also creates jobs relatively well, whether directly or indirectly. We haven’t satisfactorily used Iran’s transit capacity yet, and now it seems that more attention is being paid to this economic and cultural capacity under the incumbent administration.