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India Remains Committed to Developing Iran Port Despite U.S. Sanctions

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as they arrive for their delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Rouhani, who is on three days state visit to India has strongly criticized the Trump administration's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital …
AP Photo/Manish Swarup
EDWIN MORA

India expressed its ongoing commitment to the development of the Chabahar port in Iran this week, a project expected to uplift the Iranian economy as the Trump administration reimposes sanctions on Tehran as well as countries and entities that engage in business with the Islamic Republic.

On Tuesday, senior officials from Afghanistan, India, and Iran met in Tehran to discuss the project, a testament to New Delhi’s commitment to the project despite the threat of standing and looming U.S. sanctions on the Shiite country.

According to Live Mint, India’s foreign ministry said in a statement about Tuesday’s meeting:

Detailed discussions were held between the three sides on full operationalization of the trilateral agreement for international transit and transport through Chabahar Port.

All sides shared the view that full operationalization of trilateral Chabahar initiative will promote connectivity and economic development of Afghanistan and the region.

It was decided to constitute a follow-up committee that would hold its first meeting within two months in Chabahar Port, Iran. It would discuss and aim to finalize a protocol to harmonize transit, roads, customs, consular matters that was shared by the Indian side at the meeting for making the route attractive, decrease logistic costs and pave the way for smooth implementation of the Trilateral Chabahar Agreement.

Iran has welcomed India’s commitment to the port, noting via the state-run Press TV outlet that New Delhi’s devotion to the project defies the Trump administration’s sanctions on Tehran.

The Trump administration is expected to reimpose oil sanctions on Iran on November 4, a move that will impact India, one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.

Although the Trump administration in July said it would not interfere with India’s deal with Iran to develop the port at Chabahar, Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said last month the U.S. is reviewing the project.

At an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Wells reportedly said:

We are reviewing (Chabahar project) in the context, in particular of Afghanistan, and in the spirit that the idea of our sanctions are not to punish partners or to imperil partners, but to bring a price tag for Iran’s malign behavior … As we review the issue of Chabahar, it’ll be in the context of what it provides for the stabilization of Afghanistan or for the kind of regional connectivity that serves other interests as well. But it’s an ongoing process of review.

President Donald Trump has strongly warned countries against conducting business with Iran, which his administration has deemed a top national security threat.

The president reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the controversial nuclear deal that he argued failed to live up to its expectations of curbing Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting the economic restrictions.

After Islamabad refused to grant India transit access for trade with Afghanistan and Iran, New Delhi proposed developing the Chabahar port to bypass Pakistan.

The port is considered a rival project of the Chinese-built port of Gwadar in Pakistan, an arm of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

CPEC is a major component of Beijing’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR), also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chabahar is located less than 100 miles from Gwadar, Live Mint notes.

China and its ally Pakistan consider India to be their regional foe. New Delhi has refused to sign on to OBOR, which the United States considers a threat.

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