US South Asia policy relieves India of sanctions over Chabahar port 

A security personnel looks on at oil docks at the port of Kalantari in the city of Chabahar, 300km east of the Strait of Hormuz, Iran, in this January 17, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 November 2018
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US South Asia policy relieves India of sanctions over Chabahar port 

  • Pant underlines that “Chabahar is so crucial to Afghanistan that Americans must have realized this is not only beneficial for India but also for the long-term American interest in the region

NEW DELHI: The US decision not to impose sanctions on India for continuing the development of Chabahar port in Iran has not come as a surprise to foreign policy experts in New Delhi.
“According to Trump’s South Asia policy, India is considered as a strategic ally, which means that the US does not want its ally to look weak in any manner,” said Zakir Hussain, a New Delhi-based foreign policy expert.
“India has made it very clear to the US that the whole idea of a sound Afghan strategy would imply the development of Chabahar port in some way. So the exemption is not a big surprise,” said Harsh V. Pant of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a New Delhi-based think tank.
On Tuesday, the US State Department in a statement said that the Indian construction activities in Chabahar port will not invite any punitive action despite the kicking in of sanctions against Iran from Monday.
“This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief,” said a spokesperson of the State Department in a briefing on Tuesday.
The exemption granted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will permit the construction of a railway line from Chabahar port to Afghanistan, and for shipments to the war-torn country of non-sanctionable goods, such as food and medicine.
“The president’s South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as our close partnership with India,” the state department spokesperson said.
Pant underlines that “Chabahar is so crucial to Afghanistan that Americans must have realized this is not only beneficial for India but also for the long-term American interest in the region.”
He told Arab News that “this exemption underlines the point that Washington recognizes the challenges it faces in Afghanistan and the role both India and the US can play in putting pressure on Pakistan. Chahbahar not only provides alternative routes to reach Afghanistan but also reduces the salience of Pakistan in the region.”
Pant said that “the exception is a recalibration of the US policy in South Asia that gives primacy to India’s role in Afghanistan.”
Sujata Ashwarya Cheema, of New Delhi-based Jamia Milia Islamia University (JMIU), said that the “exemption shows the Trump administration is looking for a compromise on the Iran issue. It wants to craft a new arrangement albeit agreeable to its allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
Hussain argued that “in the future the US might like to use Chabahar port as an alternative route and limit its dependence on Pakistan. Besides, the port serves Washington’s strategic interest in containing China’s growing influence in South and Central Asia.”
However, Meena Singh Roy, of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyzes (IDSA), a New Delhi-based think tank, called the whole exemption “vague.”
India has committed $500 million to the project and $2 billion to build a railway line from Chabahar to Hajjigaj in Afghanistan.
In December last year, the first phase of the Chabahar port in southeast Iran was inaugurated. The port opened a new strategic transit route between India, Iran and Afghanistan — bypassing Pakistan.
In an agreement signed in 2016, India, Iran and Afghanistan agreed to establish a Transit and Transport Corridor among the three countries using Chabahar Port as one of the regional hubs for sea transportation in Iran, besides multi-modal transport of goods and passengers across the three nations.


EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

Updated 3 min 14 sec ago
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EU leaders meeting to endorse Brexit divorce deal

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for

BRUSSELS/LONDON: European Union leaders will meet on Nov. 25 to endorse a Brexit divorce deal but British Prime Minister Theresa May was mauled by opponents, allies and mutinous members of her party who warned the agreement could sink her premiership.
May won the backing of her senior ministers after a five-hour meeting on Wednesday though she now faces the much more perilous struggle of getting parliament, which has the final say, to approve the agreement.
It is unclear when that vote might happen.
“If nothing extraordinary happens, we will hold a European Council meeting in order to finalize and formalize the Brexit agreement,” European Council President Donald Tusk said after meeting EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
More than two years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May said the deal was the best the world’s fifth-largest economy could hope for and that the other options were leaving with no deal or thwarting Brexit.
But in a sign of just how hard the vote in the British parliament might be, Shailesh Vara, who backed EU membership in the 2016 referendum, quit on Thursday as a junior minister in May’s government.
“I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed with the European Union,” Vara said as he resigned as a Northern Ireland minister.
“We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown they do not have our best interests at heart. We can and must do better than this.”
Nick Timothy, one of May’s former chiefs of staff, said her deal was a capitulation that parliament would reject.
“When parliament rejects the prime minister’s proposal, as surely it will, there will still be time for ministers to negotiate something better,” Timothy wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Timothy, who resigned after May’s botched gamble on a snap election that lost her party its majority in parliament, said Britain should use its security contribution as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.
May will give a statement to parliament on Thursday on the deal which she hopes will satisfy both Brexit voters and EU supporters by ensuring close ties with the bloc after Britain leaves on March 29.
The ultimate outcome for the United Kingdom remains uncertain: scenarios range from a calm divorce to rejection of May’s deal, potentially sinking her premiership and leaving the bloc with no agreement, or another referendum.
Getting a deal through parliament will be difficult. She will need the votes of about 320 of the 650 lawmakers.
“The parliamentary arithmetic has looked tight for some time,” Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients. “It now looks tighter, given signs of greater unity among those who object to the draft Agreement.”
“We’re in the Brexs**t — Theresa May’s soft Brexit deal blasted by ALL sides,” read the headline in The Sun, Britain’s best-read newspaper.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up May’s government, said it would not back any deal that treated the British province differently from the rest of the United Kingdom.