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U.S. warning on deal with Iran on Chabahar Port, may be ignored by India

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Washington can ill afford to strain relationship too far with a strategic ally

By Girish Linganna

The United States state department's comment mentioning that the U.S. sanctions are enforceable on any country dealing with Iran including , has been received by Indian foreign policy office in New Delhi as a warning but not having the potential to disrupt ties. External affairs minister S Jaishankar explained on Wednesday that the US was aware of the development of Chabahar port in Iran and it is of regional interests.

The day after the agreement was signed, on Monday in Teheran, the United States expressed concerns, warning India about potential sanctions risks. The new 10-year agreement between the India Port Global Limited (IPGL), supported by New Delhi, and Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) updates a previous agreement from 2016. Previously, this pact required annual renewals, but the latest version extends this period to every ten years, following three years of negotiations.

As part of the agreement, India Port Global Limited (IPGL) will invest around $120 million to upgrade the Shahid Beheshti Terminal at Chabahar Port. In a letter to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar mentioned that New Delhi would provide a credit line of $250 million to support the development of Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman.

The letter from India's External Affairs Minister was personally delivered to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian by Sarbanand Sonowal, the Indian Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways. Shortly after the contract was signed, a spokesperson from the US State Department stated during a regular briefing that the US would persist in enforcing sanctions against organizations that engage with Iran.

Vedant Patel, the Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, commented as reported by Russian Media House Sputnik, “I'll leave it to the Government of India to discuss its foreign policy objectives regarding Chabahar port and its bilateral ties with Iran. As for the United States, our sanctions on Iran are still active, and we will keep enforcing them.”

Vedant Patel emphasized that any entity or individual considering engagements with Iran should be conscious of the potential risks and sanctions they might face, explicitly stating that there would be no exemptions for India.

A report from the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) outlines that the comprehensive US sanctions against Iran affect various sectors including energy, banking, shipping, construction, mining, manufacturing, and defense.

Yet, the US sanctions exempt humanitarian shipments through Chabahar Port. To date, India has utilized this port to send approximately 2.5 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan, aiding Kabul in addressing its food shortages.

Commodore (retired) Seshadri Vasan, Regional Director of the Maritime Foundation (NMF), told Sputnik media house that the 7,200-kilometre North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which links India and other Southeast Asian nations to Central Asia and beyond, should be seen as an “alternative” to the ‘Silk Road'.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) includes thirteen member countries: India, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Ukraine, and Syria, with Bulgaria serving as an Observer Member.

The INSTC envisions a logistics network starting in Mumbai, India, where goods are shipped by sea to Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, Iran. From there, the goods are transported by road to Bandar-e-Anzali on the Caspian Sea in Iran, then shipped across the Caspian to Astrakhan, Russia. The final leg of the journey uses the Russian railway network to deliver goods to various destinations within Russia and into Europe.

This corridor is expected to cut transit time by about 40%, reducing travel from the current 45-60 days to just 25-30 days. It also aims to lower freight costs by 30% compared to the traditional Suez Canal route, making it a more efficient and cost-effective option for transportation.

Vasan stated that the US should recognize that an alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aligns with its own interests as well as broader global interests. He expressed hope that the US would not impose sanctions on non-military trade with Iran, especially in light of projects backed by India in the country.

Indian analysts believe that there is scope for an understanding between India and the US on this issue since despite all the irritants in the present India-US relations including dealing with the Pannun issue and the human rights, the U.S. can ill-afford to alienate a strategic ally lie India in Asia-Pacific in its global strategy against China. Just like, the US reconciled to the Indian decision to import crude oil from Russia which is equally under US sanctions, the Chabahar port issue will also be dealt in a similar way without aggravating the bilateral relations. (IPA Service)

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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