India has told the Americans that the United States “cannot tell India what to do” in the strategic Iranian seaport of Chabahar, Indian Ambassador in Iran Gaddam Dharmendra reportedly told the Iranian media recently. He also named China as one of the countries from whom New Delhi is acquiring equipment for development of the Chabahar port.
The statements are being seen as a reflection of the strategic independence that New Delhi is exercising while dealing with Iran on which the US has placed crippling economic sanctions.
However, India had earlier managed to get the US to exempt the Chabahar port from sanctions. The Iranian sea-port of Chabahar has proved crucial for India as it provides sea-land connectivity to Afghanistan bypassing the land route through Pakistan. India had last week said that an Indian company had significantly scaled up operations at the strategically-located Iranian sea-port of Chabahar in the past two years despite the difficulties posed by US sanctions on Iran. New Delhi had further assured that “proactive measures are currently underway to increase the usage of Chabahar Port, both for Afghanistan and Central Asia”.
In a video that has surfaced which is believed to be a recent one during a discussion with the Iranian media, the Indian Ambassador Mr. Dharmendra said, “In terms of pressures, the fact what I said we are the only country that is continuing to have a Rupee Rial trade arrangement where we are financing bilateral trade between our countries, the fact that we are working in Chabahar, we are buying equipment for chabahar, we are preparing for Chabahar, we have told the Americans they cannot tell us what to do on Chabahar.”
The Indian envoy added, “Now phase 1 equipment right now as per the lease agreement between India and Iran the two agencies which was signed in December, 2018, ... on a yearly basis which we call the interim contract. In (this) between December, 2018 and December 2019, we increased shipping to 6,000 tonnes and ... cargo (including) rice, sugar, wheat both for Iran and Afghanistan. Within one year, traffic has increased hugely ... we need to order equipment. ... We have placed orders for equipment from third countries. Italy, Finland, Germany and China—four main suppliers. Basically, Chabahar continues to function as a new port which is still in its development phase ... .”
On Thursday, New Delhi had also sounded an extremely optimistic note on Indian participation in the crucial Chabahar-Zahedan railway line project. India on Thursday had said Iranian Deputy Minister and head of Iranian railways Saeed Rasouli had invited the Indian Ambassador Mr. (Dharmendra) in Tehran for a “good” meeting on Monday “to review the cooperation under this project”, adding that Mr. Rasouli had stated that “vested interests” are behind reports that Iran has excluded India in this project. Zahedan in Iran is located near the Afghan border and the Chabahar-Zahedan rail route could further help smooth movement of Indian goods to Afghanistan.
All this comes at a time of reports of massive Chinese financial assistance to Iran amid the US sanctions which has posed a huge strategic challenge to India. It is well-known that Iran had grown extremely unhappy in the past few months due to Indian strategic proximity to the United States under President Donald Trump who had imposed sanctions on Iran....