A State Department spokesperson said that America would allow the projects to move forward and allow carrying of “non-sanctionable” goods through the port to Iran.
In a major development, India has managed to keep Iran’s Chabahar Port project outside the purview of the sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration on November 5.
The announcement made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin focussed primarily on the economic pressure built to bring Iranian oil imports to zero and “granted” exemptions to eight countries.
“The US will be granting these exemptions to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey. Each of those countries has already demonstrated significant reductions of the purchase of Iranian crude over the past six months, and indeed two of those eight have already completely ended imports of Iranian crude and will not resume as long as the sanctions regime remains in place. We continue negotiations to get all of the nations to zero,” said the Secretary of State.
But there was no clarity or response to whether if US was considering waiver for Chabahar and the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC).
On Tuesday, the State Department clarified that Chabahar and an Afghanistan specific railway project (under INSTC) would be kept out of the sanctions for the purpose of “development” of Afghanistan.
Responding to India Today a State Department spokesperson said that America would allow the projects to move forward and allow carrying of “non-sanctionable” goods through the port to Iran.
“After extensive consideration, the Secretary has provided for an exception from the imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) with respect to the development of Chabahar Port and the construction of an associated railway and for the shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the Port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as Afghanistan’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products,” said the spokesperson.
Chabahar and INSTC are important strategic projects for India and Afghanistan. Sources tell India Today that both countries were engaged with the Trump administration to impress upon them the importance of circumventing Pakistan and making Islamabad irrelevant to Afghanistan’s growth story.
A convinced US administration told India Today, “The President’s South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India. We seek to build on our close relationships with both countries as we execute a policy of maximum pressure to change the Iranian regime’s destabilizing policies in the region and beyond.”
Adding that while the “exception” has been granted after much deliberation, the strategic importance of these projects cannot be ignored.
“This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief”, said the US State Department Spokesperson.
This comes as a huge diplomatic victory for India. Chabahar has been a huge counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port project but more importantly it will keep Islamabad out and give India and the other allies access to Kabul.
As an extension to the same, the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is being hailed as a “game changer”. The port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman – as Iran’s sole Indian Ocean port – has emerged as a key feeder port to the INSTC.
In October-November 2017, India successfully despatched an inaugural consignment of around 15,000 tons of wheat from the Indian port of Kandla in Gujarat to Afghanistan via Chabahar, in line with its commitment to provide 1.1 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan on a grant basis.
Source: India Today