US exempts India from certain sanctions for development of strategic Chabahar Port in Iran

The United States has exempted India from imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar Port in Iran, along with the construction of the railway line connecting it with Afghanistan, a State Department spokesperson said. The decision by the Trump administration, which a day earlier imposed the toughest ever sanctions on Iran and is very restrictive in giving exemptions, is a seen as a recognition by Washington of India’s major role in the development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of immense strategic importance for the reconstruction of war-torn Afghanistan.

“After extensive consideration, the Secretary (of State) has provided for an exception from imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, with respect to the development of Chabahar Port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

The US imposed “the toughest ever” sanctions on a defiant Iran aimed at altering the Iranian regime’s “behaviour”. The sanctions cover Iran’s banking and energy sectors and reinstate penalties for countries and companies in Europe, Asia and elsewhere that do not halt Iranian oil imports. However, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that eight countries — India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil as they showed “significant reduction” in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.

To a question on the fate of Chabahar Port after the US reimposed all its sanctions on Iran, the spokesperson said, “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.” In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan inked a pact which entailed establishment of Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides multi-modal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nations southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar. The Chabahar Port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries after Pakistan denied transit access to India. Pompeo’s decision to give India exemption from imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the port is driven by the South Asian strategy, which was announced by President Donald Trump in August.

Reacting to the Trump administration’s decision, US experts said it was a “right move”. “Trump administration made the right move by exempting India for the development of the Chabahar port,” Jeff Smith of the Heritage Foundation told PTI. India, Smith argued, “

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