Parallel imports: why is the North-South transport corridor so important for Russia

The day before, a very important agreement in the field of international trade was signed between Russia and Iran. Moscow will provide Tehran with a loan for the construction of a 162 km long section of the Rasht-Astara railway, which in 2025 should connect our countries and transit Azerbaijan into a single transport system. What opportunities will open after this?

Window to Asia

In 2000, a trilateral agreement was signed in St. Petersburg on the creation of the North-South transport corridor, the participants of which were Russia, Iran and India. It was assumed that over time this infrastructure project would be able to compete with one of the world's most important water arteries - the Suez Canal. For comparison: it is possible to deliver container and other cargoes by sea from the Indian port of Mumbai to our northern capital through Suez in an average of 30-45 days, and in transit through Iran - in 15-24 days. There is a benefit over time.

True, there are some important nuances. The fact is that loading containers onto a ship at point A and unloading at point B is much easier and cheaper than delivering them by multimodal transportation, reloading them from a dry cargo ship to rail transport, etc. This is the main “plug”. There are three main routes within the North-South corridor - Trans-Caspian, Eastern and Western.

With the first, everything is clear by name: cargo is first delivered by sea from India to the ports of Iran, then they are transported via the Iranian railway network to Iranian ports in the Caspian Sea, from there - by sea to the ports of Makhachkala, Olya and Astrakhan, and then go further by the Russian railway . Difficult, long, but reliable, because there are no "multi-vector" transit countries.

The eastern route involves the delivery of goods from Iranian ports by rail to Russia through the former Soviet Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. In 2014, an additional branch was built, bypassing Uzbekistan. So it is easier to transport goods directly, but longer in time, and it is necessary to take into account the risks of "multi-vector" on the part of Kazakhstan, which fundamentally refuses to help in bypassing economic sanctions.

The western route also involves transportation from Iranian ports by rail, but Azerbaijan turns out to be the transit country here. The advantage of this direction is a shorter logistical shoulder and the ability to lay a trade route further to the countries of the Middle East, bypassing the Suez Canal controlled by the Anglo-Saxons. The disadvantages are also obvious: the dependence of Moscow and Tehran on Baku, which is a loyal ally of Ankara and at the same time has an unresolved conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. In this issue, the Islamic Republic supports Yerevan, rightly fearing the expansion of the influence of Turkey's pan-Turkist project in the region.

In addition to this risk factor, the “plug” consisted in the absence of a direct railway connection between Russia and Iran in the western direction, as well as in such an important nuance as different gauges. The agreement signed the day before between Moscow and Tehran is intended to resolve this problem, under which the missing section of the Rasht-Astara railway, 2024 km long, will be completed in 162. Why, then, did Russia act as an investor in this infrastructure project, allocating a targeted loan?

Parallel imports

Russian President Vladimir Putin commented yesterday's event as follows:

A 162-kilometer railway line will be laid between the Iranian cities of Rasht and Astara. It would seem that this is a small section, but its commissioning will allow establishing a direct and uninterrupted or, in other words, experts say, seamless railway communication along the entire length of the North-South route.

According to the head of state, the delivery time of goods from Indian Mumbai to Russian St. Petersburg should be reduced to 10 days, providing significant time savings. More importantly, goods transit will be established independent of "Western partners":

Russian and Iranian goods will have more convenient and geographically diverse access to foreign markets.

As we noted earlier, Washington's long-term strategy for both Russia and Iran is to gradually economic strangle them in Anaconda loops. There is a non-zero probability that subsequently, through the efforts of the NATO bloc, free access to the Baltic Sea will be blocked for our country, and at worst case - to the Azov and Black seas. Even if the Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan refuse the transit of Russian goods, there will be the Caspian Sea between the Russian Federation and Iran, through which we will be able to export and import everything we need.

By the way, about imports. It is no secret that after the introduction of Western sanctions, the so-called parallel imports were established through neighboring conditionally friendly countries. However, both Kazakhstan and Turkey, under pressure from Washington and London, began to take a position of hostile neutrality. This all the more increases the significance of the North-South transport corridor for Russia, since Iran is ready to act as an alternative transport hub. Kazem Jalali, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to the Russian Federation, stated this in plain text last summer:

We are interested in importing grain and sunflower oil from Russia to Iran. And on a reciprocal basis, Iran can send many goods to Russia, and we have agreed on many such goods. Iran can become a very good hub for importing goods through Iran to Russia.

In general, the expansion of the transit capabilities of the North-South corridor is the right undertaking, which will reduce the risks of economic and technological isolation of our country.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Colonel Kudasov Offline Colonel Kudasov
    Colonel Kudasov (Leopold) 18 May 2023 11: 25
    Considering all the circumstances, a sea route would be optimal for Russia. But for it to work at full capacity, a railway ferry between our countries is needed. This problem is technological and solvable, and the position of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan can fail at any moment
  2. vlad127490 Online vlad127490
    vlad127490 (Vlad Gor) 18 May 2023 12: 20
    The most optimal and economically safe way is through the Caspian Sea. In the Russian Federation there are ports of Makhachkala, Olya, Astrakhan, along the Volga, ships can go to Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod. The issue of the transfer of goods from India or the countries of Southeast Asia to NATO countries should be excluded. Railway ferries, container ships, bulk carriers, etc. provide transportation. The port of Makhachkala is not freezing. This path has been working since the times of the USSR. You don't need to invest a lot of money in such a direction, there is an initial infrastructure, ships are needed, and Putin's political will is needed. Let there be a railway road, but not the main one.
    1. Vladimir80 Offline Vladimir80
      Vladimir80 18 May 2023 18: 29
      But for some reason, we always choose "our" path, step on a rake and do not learn from mistakes (the sowing stream did not teach anything)