US exempts India from sanctions at Chabahar port in Iran
The US announced on Tuesday it has provided for an “exception” from certain sanctions — an exemption, in other words — to the Iranian port of Chabahar that India has developed and used for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
This exemption is in addition to “temporary allotments” — Significant Reduction Exemptions —from sanctions that the United States announced for India and seven major importers of Iranian crude oil on Monday, when the second and final round of sanctions went into effect fully.
“After extensive consideration, the Secretary has provided for an exception from the imposition of certain sanctions 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,” a state department spokesperson said in a statement to the Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
Afghanistan’s imports of Iranian petroleum products were also being exempted from sanctions, the spokesperson added.
The exemptions were linked to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, to which India has been a key contributor, a role that was recognised and reinforced by president Donald Trump in the South Asia strategy he announced in August 2017, earmarking an expanded role for New Delhi.
The spokesperson cited the strategy to say it “underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India”.
And the US, the official said, seeks 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”.
The Hindustan Times had earlier reported Chabahar had been possibly given an exemption as it had not figured in the comprehensive list of 700 sanctioned Iranian individuals and entities — 400 from the earlier rounds of sanctions and 300 new — that was published by the US treasury department on Monday. But there was no explicit announcement of confirmation, until Tuesday.
The state department confirmation should now lay to rest all uncertainties and concerns about Chabahar in New Delhi. With Pakistan denying India land transit through to reach Afghanistan, New Delhi developed an alternate route through Chabahar port in Iran, which it helped develop partly and also operates now.
India had lobbied the US privately and publicly for an exemption for the port citing the role it plays in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.
“Since its inauguration last year, we have shipped about 110 thousand metric tons of much-needed wheat and 2,000 metric tons of pulses from India to Afghanistan through this port,” Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had said at a conference in New Delhi Delhi last week.
“To tap its full potential for benefit of Afghanistan, we might also need to pursue the development of a rail line from Chabahar to Zahedan at some future stage,” he had added.
Zahedan is also in Iran but closer to the Afghanistan border.