In October-November 2017, India successfully despatched an inaugural consignment of around 15,000 tons of wheat from the Indian port of Kandla in Gujarat to Afghanistan via Chabahar, in line with its commitment to provide 1.1 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan on a grant basis.
Representatives of India, Afghanistan and Iran met a little more than two weeks ago in New Delhi, despite looming US sanctions, to discuss operationalization of the port, which is seen as key to connect India and Afghanistan to Iran and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan.
"After extensive consideration, the Secretary (of State) has provided for an exception from imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012, with respect to the development of Chabahar Port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan's use, as well as the country's continued imports of Iranian petroleum products", a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
This exemption is in addition to "temporary allotments" - Significant Reduction Exemptions -from sanctions that the United States announced for India and seven major importers of Iranian crude oil on Monday, when the second and final round of sanctions went into effect fully. "These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan's growth and humanitarian relief", said the US State Department Spokesperson. Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, said Washington aimed to bring Iranian oil exports to zero, but 180-day exemptions were granted to eight importers: China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey.
"We are making it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that they will face mounting financial isolation until they fundamentally change their destabilizing behavior".
The U.S. sanctions had threatened India's ability to obtain financing for the development of Chabahar, which could potentially end Afghanistan's dependence on Pakistan's port of Karachi. Reacting to the Trump administration's decision, U.S. experts said it was a "right move".
Asserting that the US' "desperation" was highlighted in their move to include closed companies in the sanctions, Zarif said that the anti-Iran move was mostly criticised and opposed by the global community and that only a handful of nations like Israel and others supported the move. It understands India's national security interests.
"This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan", he said.
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