Iran Curbs Won’t Hit Chabahar: US Signals Climbdown for India

Iran Curbs Won’t Hit Chabahar: US Signals Climbdown for IndiaIran Curbs Won’t Hit Chabahar: US Signals Climbdown for India

Ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting starting Monday, the US administration has told the Indian government that its development of the Chabahar Port in Iran will not be impacted by US sanctions on 18 major Iranian banks.
This assumes significance since the extremely hawkish US President Donald Trump, going to elections on Nov. 3, has made this exception to New Delhi, The Sunday Express reported.
The message on Chabahar Port development was communicated by Washington to New Delhi through diplomatic channels on Oct. 12, it is learnt.
It came amid the US Treasury Department’s sanctions on 18 major Iranian banks and a 45-day wind-down period starting Oct. 8, which require all non-American persons to wind down activities and transactions with the Iranian financial sector and institutions. It had led to apprehension in New Delhi and the Indian government reached out to Washington on the fate of the Chabahar Port development.
Keen to remove wrinkles ahead of the in-person Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting, the US has sought to assuage India’s concerns regarding Chabahar Port.
The US administration told New Delhi that sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine and medical devices to Iran, by both US and non-Americans, is permitted. Also, waivers granted by the US State Department and exceptions in US law, which allow reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, remain valid.
This has taken off the table one of the contentious issues — US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper are flying to New Delhi to meet their counterparts, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, on Oct. 26-27.
The fact that they are visiting days ahead of the US elections signals the importance that Washington attaches to Indo-US ties, and displays bipartisan support to stronger ties with New Delhi. A change of guard in the US presidency — if Joe Biden wins — may witness change in US policy toward Iran.



The Afghan Angle

The humanitarian assistance through Chabahar Port has been one of the key elements of India’s Afghanistan strategy. India shipped a full consignment of 75,000 tons of wheat as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan on Sept. 28, which reached Chabahar on Sept. 30. The port has played a central role in transshipment.
The wheat was dispatched from Kandla Port to Afghanistan in a time-bound manner within five months via Chabahar Port in 10 consignments and 3,237 containers. The first vessel left Kandla on April 10 this year, carrying 5,022 tons of wheat in 203 containers.
This humanitarian gesture was meant to ensure food security during the difficult times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chabahar Port has emerged as the “connecting point” for the region to deliver humanitarian assistance during the pandemic. The port, sources said, is a symbol of India’s people-centric approach in diplomacy.
It was for this reason that the US provided exemption to India from sanctions on Chabahar Port as it recognizes that this project is a lifeline for Afghanistan to receive humanitarian supplies from India.
India also dispatched 20,000 liters of pesticide ‘Malathion 96% ULV’ to help Iran deal with the locust crisis. The shipment of pesticide arrived in Chabahar Port and was handed over to Iran on July 14.
The pesticide was utilized by the Plant Protection Organization under Iran’s Agriculture Ministry to arrest the spread of desert locusts to Iran and their further movement eastward to Pakistan and India.
Along with shipments of wheat, Chabahar Port also witnessed the transshipment of 1,890 tons of sugar from India to Afghanistan on Aug. 26. The port has also helped Afghan and Iranian people and businesses to send their products to Southeast Asia.
India’s Ministry of Shipping has extended the current concessional rate of 40% discount for coastal movement of cargo and vessel-related charges, for an additional period of one year to clients for cargo being handled at Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Deendayal Port from or to Shahid Beheshti Terminal in Chabahar Port.
The levy of concessional vessel related charges is to be applied proportionately, subject to vessel loading at least 50 TEUs or 5,000 MT cargo to Shahid Beheshti Terminal, Asian News International reported.
The ports, in coordination with Indian Ports Global Limited, will jointly evolve a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure that discounts are given to cargo actually discharged or loaded at Shahid Beheshti to promote trade.

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