Inside Iran #3: India’s 800-year-old link to Chabahar

“You know… there is another person from India here,” remarked Barkat, my local guide-cum-driver, as we cruised along the sandy coastline of Chabahar on a hot, hot afternoon.

“From India?”

“Yes. He came a very, very long time ago…”

“Ah… Syed Ghulam Rasool!” *

View from outside the compound wall of Syed Ghulam Rasool’s shrine

Legend has it that Syed Ghulam Rasool traveled from India to Persia about 800 years ago, fell in love with a local beauty and married her. Unfortunately, he passed away in his sleep that very night.

The locals then built a shrine as his resting place.



Syed Ghulam Rasool’s tomb inside the shrine



The shrine was expanded and has this very plain entrance now.
A closer look at Rasool’s tomb.

The best part though is this: Every year, they hold a two-night festival to celebrate (rather than mourn) his death with dance and music.

Chabahar is in Iran’s Sistan-va-Baluchestan province and as the name suggests dominated by the Baloch community. During the festivities, Baloch from across the border in Pakistan also join in.

According to Barkat, the celebrations fall in the cooler months of December-January.

Wish I could be there then.


How did I know? The real reason was too complicated to break down for Barkat, especially in my halting Persian. Two years ago, I prepared a 5-minute presentation on Chabahar in my Persian class at Georgetown. The emotions you experience when you finally see with your own eyes the distant places that you’d obsessed over in pictures is priceless!

Chabahar, Flickr

India and Iran: Time to Act on Transit

Excerpt from op-ed published in Mint, March 03, 2015.

Chabahar, Flickr
Image Courtesy: Flickr (Creative commons)

Energy dominates any conversation on India’s interests in Iran. In the last two years, however, there is a second bilateral pillar that has taken centre stage—transit cooperation. The idea here is that we move our goods to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe through Iran, bypassing Pakistan. What sets this sector apart in Iran is the fact that, in an otherwise almost entirely sanctionable environment, it is slightly more easier to navigate.

There is a clear alignment of Indo-Iranian interests in this space.

Op-ed: Why We Can’t Take Afghanistan for Granted

Excerpt from op-ed published in the Business Standard, October 12, 2014.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on April 28, 2015.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on April 28, 2015. Image courtesy: PIB, Govt of India (CNR :67451 Photo ID :64772)

has a new president, albeit two months late. And even as the newly inaugurated president and his “chief executive officer” hash out the specifics of the country’s first peaceful political transition, outgoing president minced no words to convey who he thought were Afghanistan’s ‘true friends.’

“The Western countries and the United States of America came to Afghanistan for their personal goals. There are also countries who, without having personal agendas, are here for honest cooperation with Afghanistan’s government. One example is India.”

Read more here.

Pragati: When Iran Sanctions Bite

The article published in Pragati (September 29, 2014) breaks down the sanctions on Iran and traces their effects on India.

Image courtesy: Pragati

“The first problem was with respect to reducing imports and reconfiguring refineries…

The second concern was the often raised payment issue. Observing the increasing pressure on Iran, India had by mid-2011 stopped paying for oil imports through Iran’s central banks…

The third problem was regarding maritime (re)insurance. The EU embargo on Iranian oil in 2012 prohibited EU insurers and reinsurers from covering Iranian oil shipments. European insurance clubs handle a majority of the world’s tanker insurance (95 percent of the world’s tanker fleet).”