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India Risks US Sanctions Over Chabahar Port Deal with Iran

India has signed a 10-year agreement to develop and operate Iran’s strategic Chabahar Port to strengthen trade ties with Central Asia and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. However, this deal faces potential US sanctions, complicating New Delhi’s strategic objectives.

Strategic Importance of Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port, located in southeastern Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province, is crucial for India’s trade ambitions. By operating a terminal in the Shahid Beheshti section, India aims to establish a direct trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing its rival Pakistan. Indian Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal highlighted the port’s role as a vital trade artery for India.

Details of the Agreement

India Port Global Limited (IPGL) and Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) signed the deal, committing India to invest $120 million into the port’s terminal over ten years, with an additional $250 million loan facility, bringing the total contract value to $370 million. This agreement, revived post-2015 Iran nuclear deal sanctions relief, aims to solidify the infrastructure and operational capabilities of the port.

US Sanctions Threat

The US has issued a warning about potential sanctions for entities engaging with Iran. US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel cautioned businesses of the risks involved in deals with Iran. Despite this, India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar expressed confidence in communicating the strategic benefits of the port to the US, advocating for a broader understanding of its significance.

Historical Context and Revival of the Deal

Initial talks between India and Iran regarding Chabahar Port began in 2003 but stalled due to US sanctions. The 2015 easing of sanctions under the Iran nuclear deal revitalized discussions, leading to a tripartite agreement involving India, Iran, and Afghanistan during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in 2016. This agreement underscored the shared interest in developing alternative trade routes.

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