New Delhi: Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on Monday on the implications of the US pulling out of the nuclear deal struck between Tehran and the international community in 2015.
Indian interests in the Iran nuclear deal revolve around possible US sanctions that would once again slow down the development of the Chabahar port that New Delhi is trying to develop as an entry point to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The US sanctions on Iran had previously stalled Indian investment in and development of the port complex. Only after the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action— as the deal is known—has New Delhi moved forward, signing pacts with Afghanistan and Iran for sending goods through the port as well as for developing the port, which is situated less than 100km from Pakistan’s Chinese-built port of Gwadar.
India is also wary of US sanctions affecting its oil imports from Iran, one of its closest sources. Sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, targeting financial institutions dealing with Iran, had forced India to cuts its imports from Tehran.
According to a schedule put out by the Indian foreign ministry, Zarif arrived in New Delhi on Monday and will hold talks with the Indian foreign minister on Monday evening. People familiar with the development said the visit was decided at short notice on Saturday.
US president Donald Trump, who had pledged to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal during his 2016 presidential campaign, announced on 8 May that Washington was withdrawing from the deal.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has since then outlined a series of steep demands to be included in a new nuclear treaty with Iran, including withdrawing all its forces from Syria. Last week, he threatened “the strongest sanctions in history" if Tehran did not comply. He has also threatened to punish companies doing business with Iran, according to news reports.
Iran, meanwhile, has been holding crunch talks with other signatories to the deal. At Iran’s request, China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union had gathered on Friday in Vienna, the Austrian capital, where they reaffirmed their commitment to the 2015 deal, news reports said. A report by Al Jazeera said Iran was looking for economic assurances to stay in the nuclear deal and sought specifics on how that would happen by end of May.
In February, India and Iran had signed a slew of pacts to broaden trade, investment and regional connectivity during Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s visit. The pact on connectivity involved the lease contract for the Shahid Beheshti Port, Phase 1 of Chabahar, which allows India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL) to take over the interim operations of the port at Chabahar. The pact was signed between Iran’s Port and Maritime Organization and IPGL and permits the latter to operate the terminal for “a term of one and half solar year (18 months)." India had also conveyed its readiness to support the development of Chabahar-Zahedan rail line that will aid the transport of goods right up to the Afghan border.
Besides a double taxation avoidance treaty, New Delhi also announced that it was allowing its businesses to invest in Indian rupees in Iran, in a major departure from rules that allow Indian investors to open businesses abroad only in foreign currency.
It was only in October that India had started using Chabahar to connect with Afghanistan. New Delhi had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan through the port, bypassing Pakistan.