Waiver for Chabahar hurts interests of both America and Pakistan

04:11 PM | 12 Nov, 2018
Waiver for Chabahar hurts interests of both America and Pakistan
Pakistan and the United States have crucial geostrategic interests tied up in Afghanistan. As Washington reluctantly grants India conditional waivers from Iran-related sanctions on oil imports and on Chabahar port, a question is circulating in Islamabad with no clear answer: Why has Pakistan not lobbied Washington to delay or obstruct granting India an exemption from sanctions on the port?

In a success for Indian diplomacy, New Delhi succeeds in getting a conditional waiver from sanctions on buying oil from Iran and on operating Chabahar port. It is a crucial diplomatic success for Iran too. India is planning to pay Iran in euros, and Tehran will continue its involvement in the Afghan great game.

Washington insiders will tell you how Indian officials have been desperately lobbying the Trump Administration on the benefits to America and Afghanistan from the joint India-Iran port project. In New Delhi, there were jitters as Indian officials bit their fingers watching the briefing by Secretary of State Mike and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchen hoping for any word on Chabahar.

While India has six months to reduce its oil imports from Iran to zero, there is an exemption now for Chabahar, but it comes with a lot of uncertainty. The Indians were sure they almost lost it. The Indian media was resigned to Chabahar’s fate amid US sanctions. Even Chinese experts were confident the project will halt.

But the waiver came, and it’s a success. Indians and Iranians are celebrating. Now let’s take stock of the damage to the interests of America and the interests of Pakistan.

This American decision will strengthen the Russia-Iran-India nexus in Afghanistan, which is responsible for prolonging the war and for turning it into a war of attrition against the US, Pakistan and the Kabul government. Chabahar is a project designed to move Afghanistan into the Russia-India-Iran camp.

Do these three countries together ring a bell? In Washington and Islamabad, they should. The three nations were together in creating and sustaining the Northern Alliance in the 1990s and 2000s, which restarted the war in Afghanistan and caused immense troubles to Pakistan.

As for Pakistani interests, Chabahar is not about regional connectivity. It is a project meant to end Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan.

Iran has many seaports, some already connected to Central Asia. Chabahar is focused on Afghanistan and is part of the three-decade-old Indian and Iranian objective of ending Pakistani influence in Afghanistan (Iran, as a nation and people, does not benefit by cutting its Pakistani neighbor’s interests in Afghanistan, but this is an interest that one entity, the IRGC, has pursued feverishly for quarter-century now). Pakistani influence has receded considerably in Afghanistan, but Islamabad continues to have one trump card: Kabul’s dependence on Pakistan for access to sea. This is what Chabahar will end. But to achieve this, the port should be ready before Gwadar is. This explains how Chabahar was developed on a war footing after China and Pakistan launched CPEC.

Make no mistake: Chabahar will permanently place Kabul in the India-Iran-Russia camp. Not to mention neutralizing Pakistan's geographic advantage by bypassing Pakistan in the Russia-India-Afghanistan-Iran-Central Asia trade. In short, they are neutralizing Pakistan’s valuable ‘corner plot.’  (Since real estate is the business of choice for the Pakistani elite, they will understand this better if I use a real estate term.)

A bigger problem for Washington is the fact that the Russia-India-Iran nexus in Afghanistan is responsible for stretching the war, resulting in American, Afghan and Pakistani casualties. Russia and Iran get back at America; Iran and India get back at Pakistan and exacerbate tensions between Washington, Kabul and Islamabad. Extending the war in Afghanistan suits the interests of Russia, Iran and India.

Pakistan could have lobbied the US by arguing that India and Iran have an interest in the permanent conflict between US and Pakistan, with Russian help. The Russia-India-Iran nexus is clearly working on a war of attrition against the interests of both the US and Pakistan and the government in Kabul.

Washington and Pakistan bear the blame for this situation. There are many in DC ready to buy India’s claim that Chabahar helps Afghanistan. India’s cover story is accepted without question.

But the questions should have come from Islamabad. Yet they did not. Pakistan’s reluctant diplomacy on ties with America, over-expectation from Russia, and deference to Iran as a neighbor are behind this Indian diplomatic victory.

Ironically, Pakistan's Parliament is more interested in discussing the terms of Saudi and Chinese aid to Pakistan than in discussing how the Chabahar waiver to India could harm Pakistan's long-term interests.

Washington and Islamabad need to repair ties. This is not 2011. The Pakistani-American spy tug-of-war is over. Obama is gone. A change in strategy is long overdue.

Every day that passes without full normalization of relations, Washington and Islamabad lose even more in Afghanistan and in the larger geopolitical game in the region.

Ahmed Quraishi is a journalist, public policy writer, researcher and television commentator on security & foreign policy. He tweets @Office_AQpk


Rupee exchange rate to US Dollar, Euro, Pound, Dirham, and Riyal - 25 Feb 2024 forex rates

Pakistani rupee remains stable against US dollar in the open market on February 25, 2024 (Sunday).

US Dollar rate in Pakistan

In the open market, the US dollar was being quoted at 279.5 for buying and 282.55 for selling.

Euro currently stands at 302 for buying and 305 for selling while British Pound rate stands at 352.5 for buying, and 356 for selling.

UAE Dirham AED hovers at 76.1 whereas the Saudi Riyal saw slight increase, with new rates at 74.35.

Today’s currency exchange rates in Pakistan - 25 Feb 2024

Source: Forex Association of Pakistan. (last update 09:00 AM)
Currency Symbol Buying Selling
US Dollar USD 279.5 282.55
Euro EUR 302 305
UK Pound Sterling GBP 352.5 356
U.A.E Dirham AED 76.1 76.8
Saudi Riyal SAR 74.35 75.1
Australian Dollar AUD 181 183
Bahrain Dinar BHD 743.88 751.88
Canadian Dollar CAD 207 209
China Yuan CNY 38.89 39.29
Danish Krone DKK 40.38 40.78
Hong Kong Dollar HKD 35.76 36.11
Indian Rupee INR 3.37 3.48
Japanese Yen JPY 2.10 2.18
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD 908.79 917.79
Malaysian Ringgit MYR 58.6 59.2
New Zealand Dollar NZD 171.68 173.68
Norwegians Krone NOK 26.43 26.73
Omani Riyal OMR 726.53 734.53
Qatari Riyal QAR 76.76 77.46
Singapore Dollar SGD 207 209
Swedish Korona SEK 26.53 26.83
Swiss Franc CHF 317.87 320.37
Thai Bhat THB 7.79 7.94


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