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Jaishankar defends Chabahar port deal amid US sanctions warning

The government has confirmed that 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of pulses have been shipped from India to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port so far.
09:24 AM May 15, 2024 IST | GK NEWS SERVICE
jaishankar defends chabahar port deal amid us sanctions warning
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New Delhi, May 15: A day after the United States warned of a "potential risk of sanctions" following India's 10-year agreement to operate the Chabahar Port in Iran, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar emphasized that the project will benefit the entire region and urged against taking a "narrow view" of it.

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Jaishankar highlighted that the US has previously recognized the broader significance of Chabahar. Speaking at an interaction after the launch of the Bangla edition of his book ‘Why Bharat Matters’ in Kolkata on Tuesday, he addressed the recent US remarks.

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"I did see some of the remarks which were made, but I think it’s a question of communicating, convincing, and getting people to understand that this is actually for everyone’s benefit. I don’t think people should take a narrow view of it," Jaishankar said, as reported by ANI news agency.

He added, "The US has not done so in the past. So, if you look at the US’ own attitude towards the port in Chabahar, the US has been appreciative of the fact that Chabahar has a larger relevance…we will work at it."

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Earlier on Tuesday, the US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel warned that "anyone" considering business deals with Tehran should be aware of the "potential risk of sanctions." Patel stated, "US sanctions on Iran remain in place and we will continue to enforce them. Any entity, anyone considering business deals with Iran, they need to be aware of the potential risk they are opening themselves up to, potential risk of sanctions."

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The long-term contract for Chabahar Port was signed between Indian Ports Global Limited (IPGL) and the Port & Maritime Organisation (PMO) of Iran on Monday, allowing IPGL to operate the Shahid-Beheshti port in Chabahar for ten years.

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Dr Jaishankar noted that although India has had a long association with the project, signing a long-term pact was crucial. He explained that various issues had previously hindered a long-term agreement, but these were finally resolved.

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"We have had a long association with the Chabahar Port, but we could never sign a long-term agreement. The reason was... there were various problems on the Iranian end... the joint-venture partner changes, the condition changed," Jaishankar said.

"Finally, we were able to sort this out and we were able to get the long-term agreement done. The long-term agreement is necessary because without it you cannot really improve the port operation. And the port operation we believe, will benefit the entire region,” as reported by the ANI.

The Chabahar Port, an India-Iran flagship project, serves as a critical transit port for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. India has invested significantly in the port's infrastructure to facilitate a viable transit route for its goods bound for these landlocked regions.

The government has confirmed that 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and 2,000 tonnes of pulses have been shipped from India to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port so far.

The new agreement will see IPGL investing about $120 million, with an additional $250 million in financing, bringing the total value of the contract to $370 million, according to Iran's Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash.

The genesis of this agreement dates back to 2016, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official visit to Iran. At that time, agreements were signed to develop the strategic Chabahar Port.

Subsequently, a tripartite pact between India, Iran, and Afghanistan was established, initiating efforts to develop the Shahid Beheshti terminal within Chabahar Port.

This long-term agreement replaces the previous arrangement, which only covered operations at the Shahid Beheshti terminal and required annual renewals. It also marks India's first venture into managing a port beyond its shores, representing a significant step in regional connectivity and the expansion of India's blue economy, with strategic implications.

Chabahar serves as a vital link to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the broader Eurasian region, counterbalancing Pakistan's Gwadar port and China's Belt and Road Initiative. Additionally, it offers an alternative to the Suez Canal, which has recently faced disruptions due to regional conflicts.

Minister of Port and Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal took to Twitter to announce the delivery of a letter from Minister of External Affairs, Dr S Jaishankar, to Iran’s Foreign Minister, Amirabdolahian. The missive extends an INR credit window equivalent to USD 250 million for Chabahar-related development endeavours.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar emphasized the importance of expediting implementation, especially amid uncertainties in the Middle East. He highlighted the agreement's potential to attract larger investments and foster deeper linkages stemming from the seaport.

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