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Roving Periscope: The US smells a rat in Chabahar, warns India of “sanctions”

Roving Periscope: The US smells a rat in Chabahar, warns India of “sanctions”

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: No Democrat American President has probably turned as ‘anti-Indian’ within a few months as Joe Biden, 81, has done in 2024, the year for his re-election bid—although his administration is studded with nearly 300 Indian-Americans working at different levels of his government.

Under pressure from the so-called Liberal-Democratic-Secular (LibDemSec) cabal at the international level—translated as pro-Christian missionary and anti-Hindu gangs, peeved at the Modi government plugging their fund-flow into India via the NGOs—the Biden administration has unwittingly pushed New Delhi almost back into Moscow camp.

During the Biden presidency, Washington has rendered irrelevant the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), the four-democracy group of the US, India, the UK, and Australia which, until last year, was viewed as the “Asian NATO.” Why, even NATO has turned into a pale version of its former self.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a recent TV interview, hinted that some countries are not just trying to influence but ‘interfering’ in India’s ongoing Lok Sabha elections. This will, he said, however, end after the June 4 results.

Recently, the US-sponsored “human rightists”, even at the UN, criticized India, and “expressed concerns” at the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on corruption charges. They had ‘groomed’ Kejriwal with the Magsaysay Award to jack up his image, and the Ford Foundation funding. Both the US and Canada are openly protecting Khalistan separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who has been threatening India from their soil and funding Kejriwal.

Now, just six months before his re-election bid, President Biden’s administration warned India of the ‘potential risk’ of sanctions for any business deal with Iran when the two countries inked a 10-year contract on Monday to operate the strategic Iranian Port of Chabahar that will help New Delhi expand trade with Central Asia.

Any country having business dealings with Iran runs the “potential risk of sanctions”, the US has warned, noting that it is aware that Tehran and New Delhi have signed a deal concerning the Chabahar port, the media reported on Tuesday.

Located in Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran’s southern coast, the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman — which New Delhi had proposed to develop way back in 2003 — will provide Indian goods a gateway to reach the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia using a road and rail project called International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), bypassing Pakistan.

US sanctions on Iran over its suspected nuclear program had slowed the development of the port.

“We’re aware of these reports that Iran and India have signed a deal concerning the Chabahar port. I will let the government of India speak to its own foreign policy goals vis-à-vis the Chabahar port as well as its bilateral relationship with Iran,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel at his daily news conference on Monday.

“I will just say, as it relates to the United States, US sanctions on Iran remain in place and we’ll continue to enforce them,” Patel said in response to a question on the Chabahar port deal.

“You’ve heard us say this in several instances, that any entity, anyone considering business deals with Iran, they need to be aware of the potential risk that they are opening themselves up to and the potential risk of sanctions,” Patel said.

India and Iran have projected the port as a key hub for the 7,200-km-long INSTC — a multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.

The long-term agreement was signed by Indian Ports Global Limited (IPGL) and the Port and Maritime Organisation of Iran, an official statement said.

IPGL will invest about USD 120 million while another USD 250 million will be raised as debt.

The agreement replaces an initial 2016 pact, which covered India’s operations at the Shahid Beheshti terminal in Chabahar port and was renewed on an annual basis.

Chabahar port was last year used by India to send 20,000 tonnes of wheat aid to Afghanistan. In 2021, it was used to supply environment-friendly pesticides to Iran.

Kandla port in Gujarat is the closest to Chabahar port at 550 nautical miles, while the distance between Chabahar and Mumbai is 786 nautical miles.


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