Afghan officials said they are hopeful that US President Donald Trump’s move to reinstate sanctions against Iran will not affect the section of Chabahar Port in Iran that links land-locked Afghanistan to India.
Chabahar Port is a key trade port, providing Afghanistan with direct sea access.
According to President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, a series of discussions have been held over the past few months with Iranian and Indian officials.
He said talks are ongoing regarding the possibility of a waiver against the US’s sanctions on the section of Chabahar Port that will directly connect India with Afghanistan.
“Chabahar Port is of great significance to the Afghan government. The Afghan, Indian and Iranian governments have held several meetings over the past few months about Chabahar and work is ongoing regarding a specific plan and proposal to make sure that at least that section of the port, which is shared by these countries, is not affected by US sanctions against Iran. There is some optimism around this,” said Chakhansuri.
This comes after the first round of sanctions by the US against Iran came into effect on Tuesday – a move to force Tehran to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump walked out of in May.
This phase of trade sanctions will impact Iran’s automotive sector, trade in precious metals such as gold, and will prohibit it from using the US dollar — the common currency for international trade.
In the second phase, scheduled to come into effect in November, Iran’s ports and crude oil exports will be affected.
These curbs could also impact India directly, forcing it to curtail and cease buying crude oil from its third largest supplier.
According to a Hindustan Times report, New Delhi has sought a waiver, citing not only its oil imports but also the strategic importance of the Chabahar Port.
US officials have indicated condition-based waivers might be considered on a case-to-case basis but there has been no announcement yet, read the report.
Just last month, India said it was moving with “speed and skill” on the Chabahar Port project and that it was “committed to the development” of the port.
In May 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement on the establishment of a Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as the regional hub for sea transportation.
In February this year, Iran said it had agreed to lease operational control of Chabahar to India for 18 months and in June, India’s Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said India is trying to make Chabahar fully operational by 2019.
However, officials are optimistic about the future of the port – especially after the US on Tuesday granted a waiver - for the Azerbaijan natural gas pipeline.
The Southern Gas Corridor received the waiver from US sanctions against Iran's energy customers, an expected win for the project, which has been designed to transport Caspian natural gas to Turkey and southern Europe while bypassing Russia.
British petroleum giant BP had been seeking a sanctions waiver for its development of Azerbaijan's offshore Shah Deniz fields, the source of the Southern Gas Corridor's natural gas.
This comes as Iran's NICO holds a 10 percent share in the second phase of Shah Deniz, which was a source of concern.
US energy sector sanctions being re-imposed in November will ban companies from the US financial system if they continue to do business with Iran.