EghtesadOnline: Chabahar Port can play a vital role in the expansion of Kabul-New Delhi trade and transit ties, but the new sanctions by the United States on Iran, which will affect the port's transactions, are a political issue, the CEO of Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce said.
In an interview with TOLOnews, Jeffery Grieco added that US sanctions on Tehran are something that Washington decides about and AACC cannot do anything in this regard.
“There is a political side to the Chabahar Port development and then there is a commercial side. We do not get involved in the political side that is based on the policies set by the United States,” he said.
Officials from Afghanistan's Chamber of Commerce and Industries said the country needs Chabahar Port to increase its trade and transit ties with India and more privileges should be given to Afghanistan in this respect, according to Financial Tribune.
The ACCI officials said there has been no assurance from the US Embassy in Kabul that Afghanistan-India trade and transit relations through Chabahar Port will not be affected by the US sanctions on Tehran.
“We are not informed by the US Embassy in Kabul whether Afghanistan and India’s trade through Chabahar Port will be affected by US sanctions on Iran and on which parts these sanctions will have their impacts,” said Atiqullah Nusrat, the CEO of ACCI.
A number of investors said new US sanctions on Iran should not impact other countries, especially investors.
The investors said if US sanctions make investors suffer financial loss in trading through Chabahar Port, most of the investors will stop using the port.
“We hope that Afghanistan and the region’s economy will not be affected by the US-Iran tension. We need to have a transit route from Iran to India and further,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, the head of Industries Owners Association.
Earlier this month, ACCI officials had said that following the new US sanctions on Iran, a number of investors have become reluctant to start business and undertake trade and transit through Chabahar Port.
> Afghan Transport Ministry: Investment Drive Accelerating
The Afghan Ministry of Transport says the investment drive is accelerating at the port from Iran, Afghanistan and India.
"The implementation of Chabahar Port agreement has been completed and we are ready to provide the necessary facilities to Afghan traders at the port,” Spokesman of the Transport and Aviation Ministry Hekmatullah Qawanj told Ariana News.
According to the estimates of Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries, more than $150 million have been invested in transport and construction of factories in Chabahar Port by 60 Afghan traders.
“Some of the investments made at the port are very important for all the three countries,” said Tawfiq Dawari, the deputy head of ACCI.
“When the port is excluded [from Iran sanctions], Afghanistan will have trade relations with these countries and it will have an impact on exports and pave the way for more investment.”
Chabahar Port is providing Afghanistan with vital direct sea access, which the country hopes will improve its trade prospects. Crucially, exporting goods to countries such as India will allow Afghanistan to reduce its dependence on Pakistan.
> US Considering Chabahar in Iran Sanctions
Last week, a senior US State Department official said the US will take into consideration the impact of American sanctions against the Chabahar Port project.
"When it comes to Chabahar, we are in the process of reviewing the imposition of sanctions," Alice Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, told Indo-Asian News Service in an interview.
"So that process (of review) is underway and we take India's concerns and interest in being able to expand exports to Afghanistan and to increase Afghanistan's exports to India very seriously."
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while acknowledging the importance of India’s presence in Chabahar, confirmed that the port is operational.
"We have good cooperation in the area of shipping and transportation. The Indian presence in Chabahar is very important. We have comprehensive cooperation with India, which also includes energy cooperation because Iran has always been a reliable source of energy for India," he said.
Zarif noted that Chabahar is operational right now and Indian shipments to Afghanistan have already gone through the port.
"We expect Chabahar to become even larger with more capacity. We hope India and other investors would come to Chabahar and invest for the expansion of the port facility," he told the Indian news agency Asian News International.
Earlier in the month, Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi said Iran would soon hand over Chabahar Port to India for operation and maintenance purposes.
The Chabahar Port complex is expected to pave the way for millions of dollars in trade and is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for landlocked Afghanistan. Both India and Iran signed an agreement worth $85 million to develop the port in southeastern Iran.