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Politics

Russia-India rail link could undermine Suez Canal's importance

Expanding transport networks in Central Asia will help shape global routes

| China
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Th opening ceremony of a railway link to Afghanistan in the Ymamnazar customs control point, Turkmenistan, in November 2016.   © Reuters

In early March, Iran and Azerbaijan inaugurated a short railway with far-reaching implications. A mere 10km long, the new link is one of the missing final pieces of a 17-year effort called the North-South Transport Corridor, which aims to connect Russia, Iran and India. Slated for completion later this year, the corridor could affect economic patterns not only along the route but also between Europe and Asia.

After more than a decade of delays, many factors are driving the project forward. Changes in international sanctions have made the project more feasible for Iran and more valuable for Russia. Since international sanctions on Iran were lifted in January 2016, the country has attracted foreign investment and expertise to expand its railway network. Conversely, Russia's decision to block food imports from the European Union has increased the value of expanding economic ties with India, a major agricultural producer.

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