Economy, Domestic Economy

Iran’s Undiscovered Treasure: Makran Coast

Iran’s Undiscovered Treasure: Makran CoastIran’s Undiscovered Treasure: Makran Coast

Iran is seeking new investment for Makran Coast along the Sea of Oman to boost development in one of the country’s most deprived regions, fight drug trafficking and expand its naval presence beyond the Persian Gulf.

This was stated in an article published in the website of Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council. Excerpts follow:

Iranian Navy Chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says the region is vital for Iran and an opportunity that has not been utilized correctly. “Do we lag so far behind because our goods must first go to Dubai and then to Iran,” he asked, speaking at a recent conference in Tarbiat Modares University.

The naval chief may have been referring to the lack of adequate customs, railroad and navigation infrastructure at Iranian ports such as Chabahar on the Sea of Oman.

What Sayyari called unrealized potential ranges from “leaving large food resources unutilized” to a need for increasing the Iranian Navy’s presence in international waters to protect Iran’s national security.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei calls the semi-desert region an “undiscovered treasure”.

In 2008, he said Iran focused all of its attention on the Persian Gulf and ignored “our enormous wealth in the Sea of Oman”. This body of water, he went on to say, “is the backbone of the Persian Gulf and determines its fate”.

The Leader has insisted numerous times on developing Makran as expeditiously as possible.

The region has high potential for sea trade. It can provide Iran access to the Indian Ocean and an outlet to the sea for landlocked countries in South and Central Asia. It can also be an alternative route to deliver goods to Iran that bypasses the Strait of Hormuz.

There are other alternatives. Mohsen Zarrabi, the head of Iran-Oman Chamber of Commerce, believes Oman’s ports–one of them, Sohor Port is only 54 kilometers from Chabahar–would be a better alternative for Iran trade than Dubai and the other ports of UAE.

There are additional good reasons why Makran has not been developed.

Makran Coast is a transit center for drug trafficking. It is located far from the central Iran and has a very harsh climate.

There is also the issue of expense: Developing Makran will require $5 billion annually, likely requiring private sector involvement and foreign investment.

Mohammad-Hossein Forouzan-Mehr, Interior Ministry’s deputy for coordination of economic affairs and regional development, told a conference on investment opportunities in Hormozgan Province in April 2015, the government is determined to move from land-based to a sea-based economy.

“In this regard, Makran Coast is particularly significant for the government,” he said.

Forouzan-Mehr noted that attracting domestic and foreign investment is a strategic goal of Iran’s sixth development plan.

Referring to a landmark nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said, “Our second step is to use the JCPOA opportunity to achieve an economic boom in the country.”

Developing Makran, be it for military or economic purposes, will likely require an ambitious diplomatic component.

As Sayyari said, “You can get financial resources from other nations, as the British Navy does by providing security in the Gulf of Aden, but that requires diplomacy.”

Any large-scale economic project in the area could benefit South and Central Asia.

Now the budget for Makran has to come from the private sector and foreign sources.