Reacting to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments that the US was engaging in “very intense and very blunt” conversations with India and others like China and Turkey to stop importing oil from Iran in order to pressure Tehran over its covert nuclear programme, officials in New Delhi yesterday said they would not be “coerced” by any country.
And reinforcing its stand defying Western sanctions, India recently used Chabahar port in southeastern Iran for the first time ever to transport 100,000 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan as part of its humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.
India helped build Chabahar a decade ago to provide it access to Afghanistan and Central Asia– banned by neighbouring nuclear rival Pakistan- and is involved in constructing a 560-mile long rail line from the Zabul iron ore mines in southern Afghanistan to the Iranian port.
Along with Iran and Afghanistan it also has an agreement to accord Indian goods, headed for Central Asia and Afghanistan preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar, an arrangement it plans to exploit imminently.
A defiant India was also dispatching a large trade delegation to Iran later this month to explore business opportunities created by Western sanctions.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Delhi the Islamic republic offered massive potential for export of Indian products and commodities annually worth over $10 billion.
“The potential of trade and economic relations between India and Iran can touch $30 billion by 2015 from the current level of $13.7 billion” Association secretary general D S Rawat said.
Importing around 12 per cent of its oil and gas requirements from Iran for an estimated $12 billion, India maintains it will abide only by UN sanctions in this regard and not implement those imposed by individual nations or groupings.
Over the past few weeks it has also been examining ways to step up trade with Iran amid trouble in settling its oil bills as sanctions were closing down banking routes.
An Iranian Central Bank delegation is presently in Delhi to determine options for India to pay for crude imports and is negotiating to offset a proportion of this against acquiring oil refining machinery, heaving engineering goods and pharmaceuticals all of which the Islamic Republic badly needed.
Till recently Indian companies were routing route payments through Turkey’s Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS after EU pressure forced German-based Europaisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG to stop handling the payments last year, but it remains uncertain how long this arrangement would continue.
Last month India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected pressure from the Obama administration to join the US-EU led sanctions against Tehran.
Speaking to reporters in Chicago he declared that it was “not possible” for India, the world’s fourth largest hydrocarbons consumer to reduce its oil and gas imports from Iran as it desperately needed them to sustain economic growth.
Reference: The Telegraph