External Affairs

After Chabahar Deal, US Watching Indo-Iran Ties “Very Closely”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, during an official arrival ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Monday. Credit: PTI/ Shahbaz Khan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, during an official arrival ceremony at the Saadabad Palace in Tehran, Iran, Monday. Credit: PTI/ Shahbaz Khan

Washington: After India recently pledged $500 million for developing the Chabahar port, the US has said it was watching India-Iran ties “very closely”. The US will see if its legal parameters and requirements were being met, the Obama administration has told lawmakers.

As of now, there is no military or counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries that could be a cause of concern for the US, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing. She added that the US was “watching very closely” India’s relationship with Iran.

“We will also track very closely what their economic engagement is and make sure they understand what we believe are legal parameters and requirements,” Biswal said. “With respect to the announcement about the Chabahar port, we have been very clear with the Indians on what we believe are the continuing restrictions on the activities with respect to Iran.”

She was responding to a question on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Iran visit from Senator Ben Cardin, who is a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Modi’s visit to Iran, that saw the signing of a bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port, came months after the lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with western powers over its contentious atomic programme.

“Obviously nothing appears to be in violations of our agreements. But how do we see India as partner in fighting extremism and financing terrorism?” Cardin said as he expressed concerns that India’s economic relationship with Iran would further boost Tehran’s alleged activities to support various terrorist groups.

Biswal said that India’s burgeoning ties with Iran were driven by ever growing energy needs and wanting to use the Persian Gulf nation as a gateway into Afghanistan and central Asia. “They (Indians) have been very responsive and receptive to our briefings, to what we believe the lines are,” she added. “And we have to examine the details of the Chabahar announcement to see where it falls.”

“But with respect to India’s relationship with Iran, which I do believe is primarily focused on economic and energy issues, we recognise that from the Indian perspective Iran represents a gateway into Afghanistan and central Asia,” she continued. “For India to be able to contribute to the economic development of Afghanistan, it needs access that it does not readily have across its land boundary. And India is seeking to deepen its energy relationship with central Asian countries and looking for routes that would facilitate that.

“That said, we have been very clear with the Indians about what our security concerns have been and we would continue to engage them on those issues,” the US official concluded.

(PTI)