- 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.

These sanctions bar transactions with the Central Bank of Iran by any private or public financial institution, and ban the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran.

“Practical reality demands that diversification is needed,” Ms. Rao said. “That is exactly what we are engaged in.”

A key challenge in diversification has been the re-engineering of at least five Indian refineries that are geared to processing only Iranian sweet light crude.

India’s imports of Iranian oil feature high on the agenda in meetings between Indian and U.S. officials.

Ms. Rao described the discussions as “open, frank and candid.”

“There is a degree of understanding … it is not a minuscule degree of understanding,” she said. “India is a responsible country, and we play by the international rules.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide