US seeking to support Afghanistan and maintain India partnership while exerting maximum pressure on Iran, says State department

The exemption from sanctions for India’s activities to develop Chabahar Port in Iran, despite the May 2 expiry of exemptions from U.S. sanctions for importing Iranian oil , was attributable to U.S. President Donald Trump’s South Asia strategy a State Department Spokesperson said.

“The President’s South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s development as well as our close partnership with India. We seek to build on our close relationships with both countries as we execute a policy of maximum pressure on the Iranian regime,” the spokesperson told The Hindu via an email.

The Hindu had sought confirmation that India’s Chabahar-related activities would be exempt from sanctions and also sought clarification if the U.S.’s use of its financial might to pressure its partner and allies in Asia and Europe ran counter to longer-term American interests in those regions. The spokesperson clarified that Chabahar related activities would be exempt.

“The exception for reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan, which includes the development and operation of Chabahar Port, is a separate exception, and is not affected by yesterday’s [Monday’s sanction exemption expiry ] announcement,” the official said.

The US re-imposed sanctions on Iran last November, after Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil during April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of 2017-18 fiscal).

The US move, seen as an escalation of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” on Iran, comes after it gave temporary 180-days waiver to eight countries, including India, China, Turkey and Japan among others last year.

The Chabahar port, considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries, is located on the Indian Ocean in the Sistan and Baluchistan province of Iran. The port, which is easily accessible from India’s western coast, is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port which is being developed with the Chinese investment.

(With inputs from PTI)


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