Washington: The strategic Chabahar port project, being developed by India in Iran, is a separate exception and will not be impacted by US President Donald Trump's decision not to renew exemptions that let eight countries including India to buy Iranian oil without facing tough American sanctions, a State Department official said.
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.
A State Department spokesperson said that the operation of Chabahar Port is a separate exception. "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 announcement," the official said.
President Trump, in a move that could have implications on India's energy security, decided not to grant sanctions exemptions to any oil customers of Iran, further squeezing Tehran's top export commodity. The US re-imposed sanctions on Iran last November, after Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
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 spokesperson said that 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," said the spokesperson.
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). 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.