ISLAMABAD   -  The United States’ move to exempt India-backed port of Chabahar from new sanctions against Iran is being seen as a serious attempt towards skipping Pakistan in supply-chain to meet future logistics needs of US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the top US diplomat, has granted an exception to certain US sanctions that will allow the India-led development of a port in Iran as part of a new transportation corridor designed to boost Afghanistan’s economy.

The exception will permit the construction of a railway line from Chabahar port to Afghanistan and for shipments to the war-torn country of non-sanctionable goods like food and medicines.

Iran late last year inaugurated the port on the Indian Ocean which provides a key supply route to landlocked Afghanistan and allows India to bypass its arch-rival Pakistan.

India has poured $2 billion into Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led overthrow of the Taliban regime, which was also opposed by Iran. India has seen Chabahar as a key way both to send supplies to Afghanistan and to step up trade with Central Asia as well as Africa.

Iran has plans to link the port by railway to Zahedan on the Pakistani border up to Mashhad in the northeast. In addition, Afghanistan will be allowed to continue importing Iranian petroleum products.

Background discussions with experts suggest that apart from geo-political implications, the US exemption clearly manifests its intention to skip Pakistan as major transport corridor to meet logistical needs of its forces in Afghanistan.

They believed that the sanctions threatened India’s ability to obtain financing for the development of Chabahar, which could potentially open the way for millions of dollars of trade for land-locked Afghanistan and end its dependence on Pakistan’s port of Karachi.

They are of the view that the US by giving exemption to India would try to contain growing Chinese influence in the region by destabilising the economic impact of its multi billion dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Some of the experts are also of the view that US wants to ensure a larger role for India in Afghanistan that instead of any healthy market competition would bring forth new challenges destabilising the region.

Pakistan has been raising its concerns about India’s dubious investment plans in Chabahar after it arrested a senior Indian naval officer using Chabahar as operational base for destabilising Pakistan’s Balochistan province that provides shortest land transportation route for Chinese goods through Gwadar port.

Although Iran has assured Pakistan of its commitment for not allowing its territory to be used against it, analysts argue that US exemption to India to carry out its Chabahar project would adversely impact the economic development of the region.

On the other hand, Pakistan is also working on plans to woo the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invest in the CPEC related projects.

Minister Port and Shipping Ali Zaidi is currently visiting UAE and has had detailed discussions with Chairman DP World Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem in Dubai on Thursday.

Both sides are reported to have agreed to expand cooperation in the maritime sector.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to UAE Muazzam Ali Khan was also present during the meeting.

Speaking on occasion, the minister said that Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem is a responsible and visionary personality. He said that the nation will hear good news very soon in this regard.