The US, which has allowed India to continue importing oil from Iran, has granted a waiver from sanctions for New Delhi’s role in the Chabahar port and the construction of a railway line from the Iranian port city to the Afghan border. This after the Modi government dug its heels in and decided to continue with its engagement in Chabahar even in the absence of a waiver by the Trump administration for the project.
The waiver, people in the know said, would make funding India’s role in the port, which is the country’s gateway to Eurasia and key to the development of landlocked Afghanistan, less tricky. “President Trump’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 destabilising policies in the region and beyond,” a US state department spokesperson told.
“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. 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,” the spokesperson said. While the Modi government held hard negotiations with the Trump administration during the six months, including some tough talk to continue importing oil from Iran, it had also simultaneously explored mechanisms to safeguard its interests in Chabahar port in the event the sanctions covered that project. According to reports Indian officials had been holding discussions with the US on one hand and Iran-Afghanistan on the other to continue and expand its presence at Chabahar.
While the port does not entail any revenue for Iran from sale of oil, India’s shipping authorities, a special purpose vehicle comprising two Indian ports and banking channels will be involved in expanding the port complex. These bodies and mechanisms will not find it easy to function if the Iran port is also brought under sanctions.
In the past month, India has explored mechanisms including broad framework and banking channels for safeguarding its interests in Chabahar port if no waiver was granted for the project that will be Delhi’s key gateway to Afghanistan. Kabul is also a party to the project through a trilateral mechanism. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, while addressing an Indo-Pacific connectivity meet here last Thursday, said that India would continue to use Chabahar port as part of its wider Indo-Pacific connectivity project. He also said India would build a rail link from Chabahar to Afghan’s border.