Will take steps for energy security: India on US sanctions on oil import from Iran; India plans to cut oil imports from Iran?, say officials

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New Delhi, June 28 (PTI): Days after the US asked countries to cut oil imports from Iran by November 4, India on Thursday said it will take all necessary steps including engagements with relevant stakeholders to ensure its energy security.

Without clearly specifying India’s position on the US warning, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the statement by the Trump administration over oil import from Iran was not India-specific and applies to all countries.

“We have seen the statement made by the State Department official on this matter. The statement was not India specific and applies to all countries. India will take all necessary steps, including engagement with relevant stakeholders to ensure our energy security,” he said at a media briefing.

Kumar said that the statement made by US State Department talks about reducing import of oil from Iran to “zero” by November 4 and there is no talk of snapping ties in that.

Official sources indicated that the government was yet to firm up its position as extensive deliberations by several countries were going on over the US sanctions.

The US has told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone.

Earlier, government and industry officials said India was looking at slashing oil imports from Iran and replacing them with more purchases from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil during April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of 2017-18 fiscal).

President Donald Trump last month announced that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015 under which Tehran had agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow in international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Iran had struck the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal with the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany after years of negotiations.

Indo-Iran ties have been on a upswing after Tehran sealed the nuclear deal with the international community in 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Tehran in May 2016 with an aim to craft a strategic relationship with Iran and expand India’s ties with West Asia.

During the visit, India and Iran signed nearly a dozen agreements, centrepiece of which was an agreement on development of Chabahar port.

In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India during which both sides agreed to further expand their cooperation in number of key sectors.

During Rouhani’s visit, both sides signed nine agreements including one on handing over Chabahar port’s operation to India for 18 months. India and Iran have robust economic and commercial ties covering many sectors though it has traditionally been dominated by the import of Iranian crude oil by India.

According to the External Affairs Ministry, India-Iran bilateral trade during the fiscal year 2016-17 was USD 12.89 billion. India imported USD 10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, and exported commodities worth USD 2.4 billion.

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