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What This $500 Mn Deal With Iran Means For India And Its Hostile Neighbours

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The International Transport and Transit Corridor Agreement, which is a trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan, focuses on opening and developing new road networks and rail routes between the three countries. It also aims to develop the Chabahar Port to strengthen trade among themselves and open the gateways to Central Asia and Europe. Negotiations between the three nations were initially floated more than a decade back in 2003.

Under this, India and Iran signed various agreements to boost industries and infrastructure. Afghanistan will be connected with Iran by road and rail, and Iran with India by a sea route.

India and Iran have a lot of historical and civilisational ties which are centuries old. Even the ancient languages of Sanskrit and Avestan share similarities. But with India’s independence in 1947, the relationship between the two has seen its fair share of ups and downs – be it the time when India voted against Iran in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s resolution against atomic energy expansion, or the time when India (the third-largest importer) became one of the major importers of crude oil from Iran, not bowing to international pressure.

This trilateral agreement will make India more flexible as it won’t be depending on just one country for its imports. Iran is well aware of the growing demand in India and wants to be benefit from it. India’s investment in the Chabahar Port could help Iran to end its economic isolation. With the sanctions on Iran eased, investments from Europe and China are also bound to increase.

This was much-needed step for a more power-balanced Asia. While China is investing heavily in approximately $62 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (which includes developing the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, and massive rail and road connectivity), India’s investment is nowhere close, but it is a very good start nonetheless.

When the Chabahar Port gets operational, it will be connected to Milak (which is close to the Afghanistan border) and will continue into Afghanistan through Zaranj-Delaram highway. This will link it to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which will link India in the south and Russia in the north through Central Asia. India can therefore tap into the Euroasian region, which wasn’t exactly feasible before.

The development of the Chabahar Port will open up Central Asia and the Persian Gulf for India, which will make the transportation of goods quicker, easier and more cost-effective. It will also allow the land-locked Afghanistan to have better access to trade, thereby reducing its dependency on Pakistan. Trade between India and Afghanistan will also get a big boost. So, the economic side of the trilateral deal seems to be a win-win situation for all three nations involved.

With India surrounded by hostile neighbors, the Chabahar Port Agreement with Iran is a welcome move. But India also needs to keep looking for more strategic partnerships. It will also have to keep the timeline for the projects in the Chabahar Agreement in mind if it wants to be taken seriously by the global economies.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (Source: Nikkei Asian Review)

However, this trilateral agreement should not be projected as bypassing Pakistan or as a power play with China. As Iran has already said, the Chabahar Port is open to investments from China and Pakistan.

All these countries could benefit from faster trade routes. Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and the Chabahar port are sister ports with less than 100 kilometres separating them. Both the ports can develop simultaneously, thereby providing healthy competition. This can promote stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan by encouraging trade and commerce.

India has tried to strengthen the sovereignty of Afghanistan and to keep peace in the region. Iran has a certain proximity with Pakistan as well. China and India have unresolved territorial disputes, and Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. So, although the India-Iran-Afghanistan treaty has a successful economic side and might help to build a more united Asia, its political success still seems to be a long-lost dream.

On October 29, 2017, the first consignment of wheat was shipped from the Kandla Port in India to Afghanistan via the Chabahar Port. The pendulum of trade has just been set in motion.


Featured image source: Wikimedia commons, Majid/Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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