This week marked an important development towards the advancement in the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project. Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi signed a deal to finance and build the 162 km Rasht-Astara Iranian railway. The stretch is the main connection in the upcoming freight corridor that connects India to Russia via Iran.
The two leaders also discussed building ships in Iran, which will be dedicated for the Caspian Sea as part of the corridor. Additionally, Putin mentioned that he would be keen to invest in Iranian ports.
Back in 2022, Iran Shipping Lines had framed a functional working group for the improvement of transportation along the INSTC in early April, and the organization has allocated 300 vessels to the transportation of products through this passageway, as per individuals familiar with the matter.
INSTC was originally launched by the three countries in 2002 and stretches 7,200 km using a multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road. The freight carried through this route will move between India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe, increasing trade connectivity between major cities of the three countries, including Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas and Astrakhan. Russia claims the project could ultimately rival the Suez Canal in terms of trade flows.
INSTC along with the extension of trade will contribute to further infrastructure development, including the making of new border checkpoints, cargo consolidation terminals, and closer interaction between customs and other regulators of various stakeholder states of the corridor. Shipping goods between Russia and India through the INSTC takes under 25 days, down from almost 40 days through the conventional courses.