US keeps "very close" watch on India-Iran ties

Washington, May 25: The US is "watching very closely" India's growing ties with Iran after it recently pledged USD 500 million for developing the Chabahar port and will see if its legal parameters and requirements are being met, the Obama Administration has told lawmakers.

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 during a Congressional hearing.

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She said the US is "watching very closely" India's relationship with Iran.

"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. [Modi's best men will oversee speedy implementation of Chabahar Project]

"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.

She 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.

Modi's visit, that saw the signing of a bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port for which India will invest USD 500 million, came 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 said as he expressed concerns that India's economic relationship with Iran would further boost Tehran's alleged activities to support various terrorist groups.

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.

Biswal in her answer said that "they (Indians) have been very responsive and receptive to our briefings, to what we believe the line are. And we have to examine the details of the Chabahar announcement to see where it falls in that place.

"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."

"For India to be able to contribute to the economic development of Afghanistan, it needs access that it does not readily have across its land boundary. And India is seeking to deepen its energy relationship with the Central Asian countries and looking for routes that would facilitate that.

"That said we have been very clear with the Indians what our security concerns have been and we would continue to engage them on those issues," said the US official.


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