Afghan thanks US for exempting Chabahar port from biting Iran sanctions

The Tribune – Afghanistan has thanked the US for exempting Iran’s strategic Chabahar port from its tough sanctions, saying the project, being developed by India, was an important commercially viable gateway for the land-locked country’s access to the sea.

Last month, the Trump administration exempted India from imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar Port, along with the construction of a railway line connecting it with Afghanistan.

The US has imposed “the toughest ever” sanctions on a 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, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that 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 the Persian Gulf country.

Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Mahmoud Saikal said that the Chabahar Port remains an important gateway for providing commercially viable access to the sea linking the Indian Ocean with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond.

“We appreciate the collaboration and flexibility of our strategic partner, the United States to work with Afghanistan, Iran and India towards exempting the port from its Sanctions,” Saikal said Monday at a Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan.

Saikal said since last year, Kabul has operationalised air-cargo corridors with India, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Europe, Russia, UAE, Saudi Arabia and China, leading to a substantial increase in export of Afghan products abroad.

The year 2018 also witnessed the implementation of the Afghanistan section of the TAPI gas pipeline project, “which will revolutionise the energy sector in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India”.

A State Department spokesperson had said that the fate of Chabahar Port that the “exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief”. India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal told the Security Council meeting that New Delhi is working closely with Kabul in implementing development projects.

In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan inked a pact which entailed establishment of Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides multi-modal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nations southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 km from Chabahar.

The Chabahar Port is considered a gateway to golden opportunities for trade by India, Iran and Afghanistan with central Asian countries besides ramping up trade among the three countries after Pakistan denied transit access to India.

India also criticised the inability and unwillingness of the international community and the Security Council to deal effectively with the source of deteriorating security situation and growing terror attacks in the war-torn country.

“The sanctuaries and safe havens provided to these terror networks for years are well known. The activities of Taliban, Haqqani Network, Daesh, Al Qaeda and its proscribed affiliates including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have to be stopped,” Lal said.

He also strongly criticised the Security Council sanctions committee for refusing to designate new leaders of the Taliban or to freeze the assets of the slain leader of Taliban, saying the powerful UN body is “falling short of what is expected of it by the Afghans and international community. From the lessons from the past, we who are located in New York are aware that peace in Afghanistan is tied to the peace and security in the entire world”