Closely watching India’s ties with Iran, says US

RSTV Bureau
FILE: File photo of Nisha Desai Biswal, Secretary of State for South and Central Asia. Photo - PTI

FILE: File photo of Nisha Desai Biswal, Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
Photo – PTI

The building contours of strong India-Iran ties after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic Tehran visit is closely “watched” by the United States. Briefing the Congressional hearing, the Obama administration told the US lawmakers that it is “watching very closely” India’s growing ties with Iran after it recently pledged USD 500 million for developing the Chabahar port.

As of now, there is no military or counterterrorism 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.

“We 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 in 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 and what we have done,” she said.

Nisha Desai Biswal was responding to a question on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Iran visit from Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

India and Iran inked a crucial bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port during Modi’s Tehran visit this week. According to the deal, India will invest USD 500 million to develop the port dubbed very important for regional trade.

The developments had come months after the lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran’s historic nuclear deal with the 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 sought to know from the Obama administration.

She said that India’s burgeoning ties with Iran are driven by ever growing energy needs and using the Persian Gulf nation as a gateway into Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia also told the US lawmakers that India has been “very responsive and receptive” over the issue of regional security and fighting terror.

“But with respect to India’s relationship with Iran, which I do believe is primarily focused on economics and energy issues, we do recognise that from the Indian perspective that Iran represents for India a gateway into Afghanistan and Central Asia,” Biswal said.

(With inputs from the PTI)