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US warns of sanctions after India-Iran deal on Chabahar

US warns of sanctions after India-Iran deal on Chabahar

Tribune News Service

Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi, May 14

The US has warned of potential sanctions on any country considering business deals with Iran, hours after India signed a 10-year contract to operate the Chabahar port in that country.

Editorial: India-Iran deal

The US appears to have overlooked its decision formally conveyed to India twice, in 2018 and 2019, that the modernisation of Chabahar port will be exempt from sanctions because it served as an important gateway for India to send humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan.

“Any entity, anyone considering business deals with Iran — they need to be aware of the potential risks that they are opening themselves up to and the potential risk of sanctions,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel at a media briefing.

He was asked to respond to the 10-year contract signed between two Indian and Iranian PSUs to run the Chabahar port. A letter by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar carried to Tehran by visiting Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal promises a $250 million line of credit in addition to the $120 million the Indian PSU, India Port Global Limited (IPGL), has committed to invest.

Sonowal had called the agreement a “historic moment in India-Iran ties” while Jaishankar felt the deal “will clear the pathway for bigger investments to be made in the port”.

Sources here point out that it appears that the US does not view India’s operations at Chabahar as catering to only Afghanistan, especially after the formation of Iran-India-Uzbekistan trilateral to open a route from the Indian Ocean to Central Asian republics, the Caucasus and Russia.

India has already asked member countries of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), originating from Bandar Abbas port, to incorporate the Chabahar route into its future expansion plans.

India took over operations of the port at the end of 2018 just after it was informed by the US that the port would not come under sanctions. This was subsequently underlined a year later at the Indo-US two-plus-two when the US side said it would exempt the modernisation of Chabahar port because it served as an important gateway for India to send humanitarian supplies to Afghanistan.

The other route from the sea into landlocked Afghanistan is from Pakistan that denies transit rights to India.

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