Chabahar will benefit region, U.S. should not take a ‘narrow view’ of it: Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister says India will work at explaining the benefits of the port in Iran

Updated - May 15, 2024 09:50 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2024 12:14 pm IST - New Delhi

 External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. File.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. File. | Photo Credit: PTI

India will “work at” explaining that the Chabahar port is in the region’s interest, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, responding to the U.S. government’s remarks about the “potential risk” of sanctions to companies working on the India-Iran joint venture.

Mr. Jaishankar pointed out that the U.S. had in the past appreciated the importance of the Chabahar port project, referring to its use in supporting aid and trade with Afghanistan. He said the agreement signed on Monday was simply a long-pending long-term contract that had been delayed by negotiations and changes in the joint venture partner on the Iranian end.?

Answering a number of questions at a public function in Kolkata on Tuesday, Mr. Jaishankar also hit out at the U.S. and the Western media for trying to “dominate the narrative” and influence the ongoing elections in India.?

“I did see some of the remarks which were made, but I think it’s a question of communicating, convincing and getting people to understand, that this is actually for everyone’s benefit,” Mr. Jaishankar said, when asked about comments by the U.S. State Department over the Iran-India agreement. He said the U.S. and others should not take a “narrow view” of it.

“If you look at the U.S.’s own attitude towards the port in Chabahar, the U.S. has been appreciative of the fact that Chabahar has a larger relevance... so, we will work at it,” he added.

Mr. Jaishankar was referring to the U.S. exemption from sanctions for the Chabahar port project that was granted in 2018, when the Trump administration amended the U.S. law on Iranian sanctions to add a carve-out for projects that supported “reconstruction assistance or economic development for Afghanistan” provided they were in the “national interest of the United States”, as Chabahar was judged to be, prior to the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 2021.?

On whether the new India-Iran agreement was eligible for a special exemption, the U.S. State Department spokesperson had said “no” on Monday, warning that entities seeking to engage with Iran should be aware that they were opening themselves up to the potential risk of sanctions.

In April this year, the U.S. also threatened Pakistan with the possibility of sanctions after it signed an agreement to increase trade with Iran during a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Islamabad. It is unclear whether the U.S. State Department spokesperson was repeating standard policy in his latest comments, or it was a shift in the policy on Chabahar.

The U.S. Embassy in Delhi indicated that clarity on the matter could take some time.? “We are aware of reports that Iran and India signed a deal concerning Chabahar port. I cannot speak to the potential impact of U.S. sanctions on a deal that has just been made public,” U.S. Embassy spokesperson Chris Elms told The Hindu.

Taking other questions at the public event in Kolkata, organised by the Calcutta Citizen’s Initiative to launch his latest book, Mr. Jaishankar said he believed that the U.S., Canada, and other Western countries wanted to influence the general election in India.?

“Western countries feel they have influenced the world for the last 200-300 years. How do you expect them to give up those old habits?” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that the Western media was trying to “reputationally damage” India.

“Countries that have to go to court to decide the results of their elections are today giving us gyan [advice] on how to conduct our election,” Mr. Jaishankar added, in a reference believed to indicate the legal contestation over the U.S. elections in 2020.?

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