NEW DELHI: After several roadblocks, Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar has been successful in untangling the knot of Iran’s Chabahar project, which is crucial for India in strategic terms.
This, apart from the energy security issue, is the reason why India is focused on ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East in the wake of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
India has secured a written assurance from the US to exempt this port from sanctions during the second 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between India and US in December 2019.
In fact, soon after the dialogue in Washington, Jaishankar visited Teheran and informed Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif that it had got written assurance from the US exempting the Shahid Baheshti Port at Chabahar from sanctions.
India and Iran also “recognized that the port has the potential to act as a gateway between the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe”.
Both countries also “welcomed the utilization of the port for exports from Afghanistan and discussed ways to promote it”. Zarif is coming to New Delhi next week.
India, it is to be noted, had been unable to place orders for equipment for the project for a long time, given the US had imposed sanctions on Iran in November 2018.
Though US had given verbal assurance, no bank was in a position of sanctioning a letter of credit for the purchase in the absence of a written assurance. The written assurance from the US, say sources, will pave the way for companies investing in the project.
Chabahar port is located on Iran’s southeastern coast. India is developing this port to secure connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. The delay in the implementation of the project has made Iran impatient, and it had started a strategic alliance with China.
Iranian ambassador to India, Ali Chegeni, told a news agency this week that the Chabahar project was on course.
“The Chabahar port is a symbol of very good friendship between India, Iran and Afghanistan, Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe and the whole Persian Gulf. It does not belong only to Iran and India. Chabahar will go on, don’t worry about it,” he said.
“We are not looking for war. We are living in this region peacefully with our brothers and sisters, including India. We don’t want any tension/escalation in this region,” Chegeni said.