TEHRAN - India’s first ever consignment containing wheat was shipped on Sunday to Afghanistan by sea through Iran’s Chahbahar Port, marking the inauguration of the trade route.
This inauguration comes days before the US Congress’ expected decision of whether the United States will pull out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal or not.
Located in the southern province of Sistan, the launch of Phase I Shahaid Beheshti FTZ Port was attended by at least 60 representatives from 17 countries including India and Afghanistan, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The port’s development accelerated after Iran signed the nuclear deal, formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Washington and five other major powers in 2015. The pact stated Iran would put curbs on its disputed nuclear programme in exchange for relief on economic sanctions.
However, the fact that Washington may pull out of the deal remains a concern.
The lifting of sanctions and embargoes allowed Iran to enter into negotiations with India, China and Europe on investment and supply of equipment.
When asked whether Iran is prepared for the US to return to sanctions, Mohammad Rastad, Iran’s Deputy Transport Minister in ports and maritime affairs, said “Nothing’s happened as yet, has it?”
“We have held successful negotiations with international partners following the JCPOA,” Rastad told Al Jazeera. “We think these investments will help further foster our international relations. We hope this will help us bring about better future for our port and maritime activities.”
Despite International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying Iran has fully adhered to the terms of the pact, US President Donald Trump has been an outspoken opponent.
Billions of trade and investment deals were signed, after the nuclear deal, with companies from India, China, Russia, western Europe and the US itself.
In October, however, the US Treasury Department added major Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) linked companies to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, meaning their assets are blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.
IRGC-affiliated firms have a significant share in Iran’s port activities and IRGC’s economic arm Khatam Al-Anbia Construction Headquarters is a big player in the construction of Chabahar port .
So far, India has received a go-ahead from the US with regards to carrying out economic activities in Chabahar.
In October in a visit to India, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said his country does not want to “interfere with legitimate business” done with Iran, “whether they be from Europe, India or agreements that are in place or promote economic development and activity to the benefit of our friends and allies”.