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15 May, 2024 13:52

India responds to US warning on Iran deal

New Delhi’s top diplomat has reacted to Washington’s threat of potential sanctions over its recent strategic agreement with Tehran
India responds to US warning on Iran deal

A long-term agreement between New Delhi and Tehran to operate the strategic port of Chabahar is for “everyone’s benefit,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar insisted on Wednesday, reacting to a US warning against dealing with sanctions-hit Iran.

The Indian and Iranian governments signed the ten-year deal on Monday. The agreement allows Indian state-run operators to manage and develop the Shahid Beheshti Port terminal at Iran’s first deepwater Chabahar port.

Hours after the deal was publicly announced, Vedant Patel, the principal deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, warned that anyone cooperating with Iran needs to “be aware of the potential risk that they are opening themselves up to.”

Responding on Wednesday, Jaishankar said “it’s a question of communicating, convincing, and getting people to understand. I don’t think people should take a narrow view of it [the project].”

The diplomat further pointed out that the US has previously been “appreciative” of the fact that the port of Chabahar has “a larger relevance.”

 Iran’s first deepwater port, Chabahar is considered crucial by India as it expands its trade with Central Asia, Russia, and elsewhere in Europe. New Delhi is also scouting for alternative logistics routes to existing ones, as traditional waterways such as the Suez Canal are disrupted due to geopolitical tensions.

Chabahar is also a hub for the upcoming International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), envisioned by New Delhi, Tehran, and Moscow. Once completed, the INSTC would reduce transit times between Mumbai, India, and St. Petersburg, Russia, by 40%, dramatically cutting costs. While India expressed interest in developing the port as far back as 2003, US sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear program derailed its development.

According to a Business Standard report, Chabahar is likely to bring in an investment of approximately $370 million, including $120 million from India for infrastructure development and a $250 million line of credit to Iran.

The port would provide India access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and the broader Eurasian region, countering Pakistan’s Gwadar port and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It would also serve as an alternative to the Gulf of Aden-Suez Canal route, which has been hit by turbulence in the wake of the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, Jaishankar argued that New Delhi’s “smart” foreign policy has allowed it to maintain a balanced relationship with partners in the West, as well as countries such as Russia, Iran, and others that are heavily sanctioned. He also earlier argued that “advanced economies” use sanctions as “leverage” when it “suits their interests.”

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