Chabahar Port Current Affairs
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United States has exempted India from imposition of certain sanctions for development of strategically-located Chabahar port in Iran, along with construction of railway line connecting it with landlocked Afghanistan. The decision comes after US imposed toughest ever sanctions on Iran under Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act, 2012.
The exemptions to India are with respect to development of Chabahar port, construction of associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as the country’s continued imports of Iranian petroleum products.
This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief. It is also part US President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy which underscores US’s ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as close partnership with India. This strategy states that India has major role in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan.
US has imposed toughest ever sanctions on 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, 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 Iran.
The first trilateral meeting between India, Afghanistan and Iran of Coordination Council of Chabahar Agreement was held in Tehran, capital city of Iran. India, Iran and Afghanistan in May 2016, had signed agreement which entailed establishment of transit and transport corridor among three countries using Chabahar Port as one of regional hubs.
Highlights of Meeting
Detailed discussions were held between three sides on full operationalisation of trilateral Agreement for international transit and transport through Chabahar port. They shared view that full operationalisation of Chabahar port will promote connectivity and economic development of Afghanistan and region. They also reviewed its implementation.
They also decided to constitute follow-up committee that will hold its first meeting within two months in Chabahar port. This committee will discuss and aim to finalise protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters for making the route attractive and decrease logistic costs. It was also decided to hold next meeting of the coordination council in India in the first half of 2019.
The meeting assumes significance as strategically-located Chabahar port on energy-rich Iran’s southern coast was coming under ambit of US sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were announced after US under President Donald Trump administration withdrew from 2015 Iran nuclear deal that lifted most of embargoes on Iran imposed for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India is committed to Chabbar project despite threat of US sanctions on nations doing business with Iran including buying oil or investing in the country. It also has conveyed to US importance of Chabahar project, saying it can be major link for trade with war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Chabahar is strategically located in Sistan-Balochistan province on energy-rich Iran’s southern coast in Gulf of Oman. It is less than 100 nautical miles from Chinese built port of Gwadar in Pakistan. India in 2003 had first proposed developing Chabahar port. The port is seen as golden gateway for India to access landlocked markets of Afghanistan and Central Asian markets bypassing Pakistan. India and Iran had signed lease agreement for operation of Shahid Beheshti port or phase 1 of Chabahar in February 2018. Under the terms of this agreemetn, India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL), an Indian company was to take over interim operations of tport Chabahar and operate terminal for 18 months.