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Chabahar port: US says India a player in Afghanistan, supports transit options
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Washington, Dec 4 (Agencies): The US has said that India "is a player" in Afghanistan and it supports New Delhi's move with regard to transit options to enhance its economic connectivity with the war-torn country.

"India has really shown that it is a player in Afghanistan and that it is interested in supporting Afghanistan in a very constructive way," a senior administration official told agencies.

The official speaking on condition of anonymity was reviewing India's role in the first 100 days of the South Asia Strategy that was announced by Trump in a speech on August 21.

"As you know President Trump in his August 21st speech called on India to play a bigger role in supporting Afghanistan and its economic development. I think India has been answering the call," the official said.

Referring to a very successful trade conference on Afghanistan in New Delhi in September, the official said it resulted in pledging of hundreds of millions in new deals.

India has established air corridor and now the airport door and now has sent its first wheat shipment through Chabahar port in Iran.

"So, the US is supportive of this. We totally support India building up its economic relationship and increasing the transit options so that they can be more economically engaged with Afghanistan. The US has noticed that India has been stepping up its economic engagement with the country," the senior administration official said.

Responding to a specific question on the Chabahar port given Trump Administration's policies with Iran, the official said the US does not want IRGC or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp of Iran to benefit out of any economic activities.

"But again, we understand that India has challenges in getting goods for Afghanistan," and its inability to have economic linkages because of the inability to trade through Pakistan, the official said.

"So, I think that there is an understanding (in the Trump Administration) that if India is to be more economically engaged in Afghanistan there has to be transit options for India," the senior administration official said.

First phase of Chabahar port inaugurated:

The first phase of the Chabahar port on the Gulf of Oman was inaugurated on Sunday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, opening a new strategic route connecting Iran, India and Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan.

The port in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich nation's southern coast is easily accessible from India's western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan's Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80 kms from Chabahar.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Minister of State for Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan represented India at the inauguration ceremony of Phase 1 of the Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar which was also attended by ambassadors and senior officials of the region.

An India-Iran-Afghanistan ministerial-level trilateral meeting on Chabahar also took place today on the sidelines of the event where the three countries resolved to work towards integrated development of connectivity infrastructure including ports, road and rail networks to open up greater opportunities for regional market access and integration of their economies.

Under the agreement signed between India and Iran in May last year, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of USD 85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of USD 22.95 million on a 10-year lease.

News Updated at : Tuesday, December 5, 2017
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