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Americans cannot tell us what to do in Chabahar: Indian envoy to Iran

In an interaction with the Tehran Times, Indian envoy to Iran Gaddam Dharmendra elaborated on the strengthened bilateral cooperation between the two countries despite US sanctions and asserted that India is the only country that is still trading in local Iranian currency, Rial.

Chabahar port is a seaport in Chahbahar in South-Eastern Iran. (Image: Twitter)

India expressed its deep commitment to remain engaged and invested in Iran in an interaction Indian envoy to Iran, Gaddam Dharmendra, had with the Tehran Times on July 14.

In a video clip of the interaction, that was tweeted by the Tehran Times but was deleted later, Ambassador Gaddam Dharmendra elaborated on the strengthened bilateral cooperation between the two countries despite US sanctions and asserted that India is the only country that is still trading in local Iranian currency, Rial.

Carving out a diplomatic space for itself in the region, India asked the US not to dictate terms on the Chabahar port.

Ambassador Gaddam said, “I said we are the only country that is continuing to have rupee-rial trade arrangement where we are financing bilateral trade between our countries. We are working in Chabahar, we are buying equipment for Chabahar, we are preparing for Chabahar. We’ve told the Americans they cannot tell us what to do in Chabahar”.

This rupee-rial channel is being facilitated by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). It has helped the traders in both countries in the exchange of commodities.

UCO Bank is also the Indian partner in this mechanism with six banks on the Iranian side that are designated by the CBI. The trade is going on through these banks.

The Chabahar Port development project, in southeastern Iran, has been critical for the expansion of economic relations and enhancing connectivity in the region to Afghanistan. But, for further development of the port, India continues to seek equipment from countries that are still willing to supply, which includes China.

“We need to order equipment. We have placed orders for equipment from Italy, Finland, Germany and China, four main suppliers,” said the Indian envoy.

“Basically, Chabahar continues to function as a new port which is still in its development phase and we hope, as we move forward, traffic will increase,” he added.

On connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia, he said, “We see Iran as a pivot for our economic interactions with Central Asia, with eastern Europe through Azerbaijan and with CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries. For this, we have two transport corridors, one is Chabahar as the gateway to Central Asia and the other is Bandar Abbas”.

Iran, India, and Afghanistan have signed a trilateral agreement based on which India supplies goods and equipment to Afghanistan and vice versa.

US has given the Chabahar Port a waiver from sanctions given its geo-strategic positioning and route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

On the Farzad-B gas field and whether if there was a chance of India’s involvement, he expressed hope and said: “Regarding the Farzad-B development project, unfortunately, there has been no progress in the talks but we are hopeful about the future.”

“When the political turbulences are calmed and our energy cooperation is resumed we will definitely look for cooperation in many energy-related projects, and Farzad-B is one of them,” he added.

India has walked a very tightrope on projects it is a part of in Iran after careful monitoring the local companies to ensure they don’t work with any sanctioned entity.

While Iran wants to go alone in the Farzad-B gas field project and it has been conveyed to New Delhi, on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway link project, India Today TV has learnt that New Delhi has objected to certain entities that Tehran wanted to make a part of the construction.

According to sources, Iran was insistent on having Khatam al-Anbiya Constructions to handle the civil work. India’s objection has to do with the fact that the company belongs to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which has been designated/proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the US. These entities are part of the US’s secondary sanctions.

Under the US sanctions, countries cannot work with a designated entity in Iran even if it is for certain development projects that have been waived from US scrutiny, which include the Chabahar port and the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link, a critical route to connect with Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

While India is sitting it out, negotiations continue between the two sides on how to get New Delhi involved. After reports of Iran going ahead with the construction without India, Iran’s railway minister said that Iran and India are “determined to continue” cooperation on the railway line.

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