- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2012

India’s ambassador to the United States said Friday it is unrealistic to expect the South Asian nation to cut its import of Iranian oil overnight but a reduction is gradually occurring.

“Just overnight cutting off imports from Iran becomes virtually impossible,” Nirupama Rao told reporters in Washington at a meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“But the share of Iranian petroleum imports is going down as we speak, and there has been a significant reduction, and I see that reduction being even more reinforced in the weeks and months to come.”

The U.S. has imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran to dissuade the regime its leaders from developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.

The Obama administration also has urged its allies to cut oil imports from Iran in an attempt to squeeze the government in Tehran.

“We are alert to all these needs at the moment and we take the situation seriously,” Ms. Rao said.

“We are not dismissive of the constraints and the developing nature of the situation. We pay very close attention to it and we are responding,” she added.

India and China are the top two importers of Iranian oil.

Energy security is vital for a country like India, where 500 million people in a population that exceeds 1 billion do not have electricity.

As of 2008-2009, the percentage of India’s crude oil imports from Iran was 16.42 percent. By 2011-2012, that number had dropped to 10.29 percent.

All the major Indian companies that were doing business in Iran have scaled down operations, and many have left the Islamic republic.

U.S. officials say India needs to do more.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton exempted 10 European nations and Japan from U.S. sanctions on Iran because they have “significantly reduced” their oil imports from the Central Asian nation.

India was missing from the list.

Along with China, South Korea, Turkey and eight other nations, India could face U.S. sanctions if it doesn’t show its intent to significantly cut Iranian oil imports before the end of June.

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