US envoy on Chabahar deal: Iran exports terror, businesses should be aware

In an interview, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti speaks about his experiences on completing a year in office, Lok Sabha elections, the Gurpatwant Singh Pannun case, and the Chabahar port deal.
US envoy on Chabahar deal: Iran exports terror, businesses should be aware
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US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said businesses should be aware of the risks of interacting with Iran as it exported terrorism. However, Garcetti said the US mission in New Delhi was awaiting further clarification on the State Department's warning of "potential risk of sanctions" for India over the inking of the Chabahar port deal with Iran.

In an exclusive interview with India Today TV, the US envoy spoke about his experiences of completing a year in office, the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the Gurpatwant Singh Pannun murder-for-hire case, student protests in US universities and India-US relations.

Garcetti also said that two more US consulates would be opened over the next 12 months in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. "Usually these things take years. We are hoping that we can do this in the next 12 months, which would be a record, probably not only just in India, but maybe anywhere in the world," he said.

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US envoy on Chabahar deal: Iran exports terror, businesses should be aware

It has been one of the most enjoyable years of my life. Me and my family, to see and to feel the changes in India, but also to know the consistency of the spirit of this place and its people. That's why I have always loved this country. I think if you have been to India over many years or lived here, you really feel the optimism of this moment in so many ways. India's assertion of its place in the world, its kind of extension of what it can do as a force of good in the region and beyond.

I agree with President Joe Biden that the India-US relationship is the most consequential relationship. And to be a small player at the helm of that, to guide that relationship has been an honour.

On the Lok Sabha elections in India

Before I was a diplomat, I was a politician. So I have faced elections myself. And I know that things get intense in any election. I judge democracy based on the execution of democracy. And by that measure, I am impressed with how India will travel to the remotest village, bring a voting machine even for a single individual, and that the Indian voter takes her or his vote very seriously.

In the United States, you usually vote one way or the other, consistently. And here, three months ago, you might have voted one way, but you go to the politicians and the parties and say, what are you going to do for me this time?

We see the consistency, that no matter who is in power here, and I would say the same for the United States, that our people want a closer and closer relationship, a future together, if you will, guided by two diverse democracies. Democracies are difficult to manage, diverse populations are difficult to manage, but they are better than the alternative.

On the India-Iran Chabahar port deal, the US had given a waiver. But, now we see the US threatening India with sanctions. Is it a change of mind or change in policy?

We are awaiting some further clarification on those comments. We know that Iran has been a force for terrorism, a force for exporting a lot of bad things, not just in the Middle East, but other places as well. We generally have sanctions, with some rare exceptions, where there is a strategic interest.

But most businesses should be aware of those risks of interacting with Iran as it exports terrorism, as it directly attacks another sovereign nation, as we saw recently. And that should be a concern for all of us. We certainly want to see a region surrounding India that is stable, that is democratic, and that adheres to the rule of law, and certainly does not export terrorism. I think that's a shared concern.

On Khalistan and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun murder-for-hire case

Our law enforcement has never worked more closely with each other than it has now, whether it is the attacks on the San Francisco consulate, whether it is transnational crime that occurs on both sides of the Indo-Pacific, sometimes with immigrants that come from here to the United States. Such a level of cooperation and coordination has never existed before.

It's not what people say. It's what they do. When there are criminal acts, we take those incredibly seriously. But attacks across the line, that is also something that is equally unacceptable.

I hope both India and the United States are listening to each other more clearly than ever before, the concerns they have for security, for safety. The Indian diplomats abroad can be rest assured that we take any threats against them incredibly seriously while we uphold the rule of law in our country as well.

On Nikhil Gupta's extradition from the Czech Republic. Is he critical to the investigation?

Based on the indictment, he is the central person. It is clear in the indictment that was put forward that anybody who would threaten to kill someone in any one of our countries, or commit a crime, needs to pay a price.

Countries we have extradition treaties with, just as we do with India, and are working on extraditions like that of Tahawwur Rana (one of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case), we would have that respect for each other.

On extradition of 26/11 mastermind Tahawwur Rana

That's up to the court. But all indications are that not only our coordination, but our law enforcement agencies working together on this, should result in extradition. I have a high level of confidence, but I never predict a court before it is done.

On students' protests and the crackdown by police forces across the US

We live in a democracy where people's voices can be heard. Where there is criminal behaviour, obviously those are places where people should take action. What people forget is they focus on the conflict rather than the fact that in a democracy, people can unlawfully disagree, can raise their voice in protest. As opposed to dictatorships where those voices are snuffed out.

Democracies are not easy to manage. But they are so much better than the alternative.

You know, I was a student activist, I protested things. Sometimes there are consequences that come with that which is a part of the protest. But in the United States, where emotions are high like around the world, we live in a place where people can disagree.

Has the crackdown on peaceful protests hurt America's image across the world?

No. As somebody who's been in plenty of protests, who's been involved as a student activist, that's our right as Americans and something that we should always protect. At the same time, nobody should be threatened. And there needs to be consequences if somebody is threatened or if violence is ever engaged upon or if property is seized unlawfully. Those are two separate things. Opinions are protected. Unlawful behaviour is not protected.

On engaging with any party that comes to power in India

Absolutely. We see the strength of the India-US relationship transcending parties in both countries. And it's been amazing to see this election here. Just the logistics of it.

I'd love to reassure your viewers that during the election, we are doing so much work, too. While the politicians are campaigning, it is a great time to get things done. And certainly, the Prime Minister and our President have said, continue this work on technology, on vaccines and health, on students, on education exchange, on military and strategic work. We are doing exercises. We are issuing visas. That's a historic number. Reducing wait times in the midst of all this.

Source: India Today

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