In a major breakthrough for India, the United States has reportedly given a written assurance to India that will help global banks fund the purchase of equipment worth $85 million to be erected at the Chabahar port being developed by India in Iran.
This written assurance by the US comes as a big push for development of the strategically located port that is critical to India’s trading aspirations and finding land access to West Asia and Central Asia. Earlier, Banks were not willing to fund the project owing to the looming US sanctions. The USA had given verbal assurances, but the Banks were insisting on a document.
Last year, the US had imposed sanctions on the Persian Gulf nation. However, in November 2018, the US exempted India from certain sanctions for the development of the Chabahar port in Iran. The exemptions last year and the written assurance that the US has now given to India show its willingness to help India in developing the strategically located port.
While the port is of immense significance to India, the US too has interests in Chabahar. The US recognises that the Chabahar port and a planned railway line are going to be pivotal in breaking the dependence on Pakistan for trade and other initiatives in a landlocked Afghanistan- something that is also likely to protect American interests in the war-torn Afghanistan. The US troops who currently have to rely on Pakistan also stand to benefit as the port will create a new base for logistical support and supply lines into Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. It is important to bear in mind that ever since the US changed its treatment of Pakistan, its supply routes from Pakistan are jeopardised and uncertain.
The Chabahar port is therefore a reaffirmation and reassurance of India’s enhancing role in Afghanistan. The US has already started recognising and praising the active role that India has played in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan since 2001. The Trump administration has been pushing India to join in on the battle with Taliban in Afghanistan, although India has long maintained that no boots shall be sent to Afghanistan, but with the Chabahar port India is going to help the US by providing easy access to the landlocked country of Afghanistan. Thus, the US also looks at the Chabahar port also becomes crucial for the US when it comes to pursuing its interests in Afghanistan.
With the US also helping in the development of Chabahar port, it is going to become the centre of intensive activity in the region. It becomes that much more important given that the Chinese-owned Gwadar port has got embroiled in trouble. The Balochistan Liberation Army has been creating obstacles in the way of the Gwadar port, which gets further compounded by the corrupt administration by the debt ridden Pakistan government. Last month, China’s COSCO Shipping Lines recently terminated its container liner services between Karachi and Gwadar, alleging that Pakistan’s inadequate policies and measures have impacted market development.
The Chabahar port is poised to overshadow the Gwadar port which has landed in a soup. With the US also supporting the development of the port, India gets just the kind of boost that it needed on the development of Chabahar port. The written assurance by the US therefore ought to be described a major diplomatic victory for India and reaffirmation of the strategic importance of the Chabahar port.