Despite the threat of renewed UN sanctions against Tehran, India appears to be going ahead with the Chabahar Port project that provides it a critical transport link to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
The first container ship carrying grain destined for Afghanistan from the Kandla Port berthed at Chabahar earlier this week.
Diplomatic sources on Friday said the containers on board the vessel would be unloaded at the Iranian port to be later transported to Afghanistan through trucks.
Chabahar, which lies on the Gulf of Oman, provides India with an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan. The Indian Government has committed $500 million to the development of Chabahar and offered to build a sprawling artery of roads and railways which is estimated to cost $15 billion.
Last year, India sent two cargos of wheat to Chabahar to be shipped off to Afghanistan, in a move to show the route’s viability and broaden the cargo flow before the port is fully operational.
US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal and penalise financial institutions for doing business with Tehran is clouding Chabahar’s viability.
Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, who had recently visited Tehran, assured the Iranian authorities of India’s commitment to complete the Chabahar project in 2019. The port will also provide India easy accessibility to Central Asia and beyond.
However, the renewed sanctions on Iran by Washington have put paid to India’s endeavour to complete the project.
India has appealed to the US to keep the Chabahar Port out of the purview of the proposed sanctions since the project was aimed to reaching out to the people of war-torn Afghanistan.
The Chabahar Port is expected to figure prominently during the ‘2+2’ high-level dialogue between India and the US to be held in New Delhi on 6 September.