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US: Contradictory reports on impact of anti-Iran sanctions on India

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US: Contradictory reports on impact of anti-Iran sanctions on India

Indian and Pakistani media quote same US official with different vesrions

The US administration has been given contradictory signals on the future course of implementing anti-Iran sanctions while dealing India. An Indian media outlet  reports that US has not taken any decision on sanctioning India for importing oil from Iran and investing in the Chabahar port, or buying the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.

However, another report say that Washington is not offering waiver to any country from curbs on commercial deals with Iran so far, the restriction applies to India as well, which is a major importer of oil from Iran.

Elizabeth Roche, a well known writer associated with Livemint, quoting Alice G. Wells, the principal deputy assistant secretary of State for South and Central Asia, reported that US has not taken any decision on sanctioning India for importing Oil from Iran, investing in Chabahar seaport or buying S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.

Read More: India, US Sign Key Defense Agreement

Wells was in New Delhi last week as part of the delegation accompanying US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the India-US 2+2 dialogues. Livemint reports that Wells said that the dialogue was aimed at laying the foundation of the US-India relationship for the next decade.

The Indian media outlet reports that Wells said the sanctions that come into force on 4 November were designed to bring Tehran to book and non penalize India, which meets 83% of its crude oil requirements from outside. Of this, close to 25% comes from Iran.

US: Contradictory reports on impact of anti-Iran sanctions on IndiaThe report further said that Wells added that Washington’s aim was also not to penalize India for buying the missile defence the missile defence systems or sourcing spares from Russia, reports Livemint.

She said the sanctions on Iran that come into force on Nov 4 are not specific to India, which imports 25 per cent of its oil from Tehran. Iran is India’s third largest supplier of oil, after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Between April 2017 and January 2018, Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil to India.

The report, however, incorporated Wells quote saying there was no “blanket waiver or country-specific waiver” from US sanctions on trading with or investing in Iran or buying arms from Russia.

Read More: Trump: India Called Us Wanting Trade Deal despite Tough Talks

On the contrary, Anwar Iqbal, Washington based journalist working for Dawn, quoted the same official from State Department, saying that Washington is not offering waiver to any country from curbs on commercial deals with Iran and so far, the restriction applies to India as well. Alice G. Wells reportedly said that the restrictions also apply to investments in Iran’s Chabahar port, a project built with India’s cooperation.

Alice G. Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in a conference call with journalists on Monday that restrictions also apply to investments in Iran’s Chahbahar port, a project built with India’s cooperation.

Wells, who was briefing journalists on the two-plus-two talks between the US and India, held in New Delhi on Sep 6- said there was no “blanket waiver or country-specific waiver” from US sanctions on trading or investing in Iran.

Read More: Russia expect inking S-400 missile contract with India in 2018

Dawn reports further that while answering a question on whether US restrictions on trade with Iran were discussed at the US-India talks, she said that there was a discussion in general over the sanctions and on Trump administration’s goal to hold Iran accountable for its alleged ‘maligned behaviour.’

She further said that the two sides also talked about how US expects other countries to bring their oil imports from Iran “down to zero as quickly as possible” and on US efforts to ensure that the restrictions do not disrupt the market, she said. The US has assured the Indians that adequate supplies are readily available that could be easily substituted for Iranian oil, the US official added.

Wells said, “With respect to Chahbahar, we have heard the Indian government’s assertion for Chahbahar both as a means of route to Afghanistan, a means for delivering wheat supplies, for instance, and of opening-up trade to Central Asia.”

“The US officials were clear that we were still in process of reviewing the implementation of sanctions and that we were taking this under advisement. So it was an informational conversation between the parties,” she said.

The US secretary said that, in New Delhi, the Indian and American leaders committed themselves to resolving trade issues and reaching an agreement to promote bilateral trade. US was now India’s top market for exports and the US-Indian bilateral trade expanded by $12 billion in 2017 totalling to $126bn, whereas two-way investment expanded almost $57bn.

She also said that, so far, the US had not taken any decision on giving a waiver to India to purchase S-400 Triumf missile system from Russia. “We continue to have conversations with the Indian leadership. We are working to hold Russia accountable for its behaviour and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said these sanctions are not intended to adversely impact countries like India. They are designed to impact Russia”, she said.

India and US had signed an agreement known as Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (Comcasa) at the end of the “2+2” talks between the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman with their US counterparts Micheal Pompeo and James Mattis in New Delhi on September 6.

Russia is also facing US sanctions. President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday that would authorise sanctions against countries or foreigners who try to interfere in American elections. Investigations are continuing against the alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential elections held in 2016.

A report from Washington say that US intelligence agencies now believe that Russians would again try to interfere the mid-term polls this year and also 2020 presidential elections.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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