Iran Foreign minister Javad Zarif will arrive in India on Monday night and will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tomorrow. The meeting comes in the backdrop of the United States ending sanctions exemptions to Iran’s eight oil customers, including India.
India has been prohibited from importing oil from Iran after the waiver for India ran out on May 1, or else its state-owned or private entities will face US sanctions.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that Washington conveyed to Delhi that it has stood by India on combating terrorism after the Pulwama attack and expects reciprocity on President Donald Trump’s commitment to disrupt Iran’s terror network. In its conversation with Delhi, the Trump administration had also assured that the exemption of the development of the Chabahar port project will continue, though its decision to halt the waiver on oil imports to India is guided by its objective of “changing the Iranian regime’s malign behaviour”.
India was one of eight countries which were allowed temporary import of Iranian oil for six months. Last November, US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo said the US had agreed to exempt eight countries as they had made “significant reductions” in oil imports. But New Delhi had pushed back on zero oil imports, citing adverse impact on its economy and the inflationary fallout it would have.
India is the world’s third-largest consumer of oil, with 85 per cent of its crude oil and 34 per cent of its natural gas requirements being fulfilled by imports. In 2016, India imported 215 million tonnes of crude oil and at 13 per cent, Iran stood third among India’s biggest oil suppliers, after Saudi Arabia and Iraq at 18 per cent each.
For India, this situation presents a dilemma. While the US has assured that the exemption of the development of the Chabahar port project in Iran would continue, given the policy unpredictability of the Trump administration, New Delhi would want to speed up the progress of the port development.
With inputs from Shubhajit Roy