US threats over buying Iranian oil puts India in dilemma

US threats over buying Iranian oil puts India in dilemma
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) holds hands with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind (L) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) during a ceremonial reception at the Indian Presidential palace in New Delhi. (File Photo / AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018

US threats over buying Iranian oil puts India in dilemma

US threats over buying Iranian oil puts India in dilemma

DELHI: India is facing a dilemma over how to respond to the US threat of punitive measures against countries that do not comply with sanctions on Iran, experts say.
On Thursday, the US assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, Manisha Singh, warned of the “strongest actions possible on people who will not assist us in complying with this new range of sanctions that we are putting back into place.”
She was asked in Congress: “If any of the major buyers of Iranian crude, which is China, India… refuse to sharply cut their purchases, are we really prepared to cut their banks off from the global banking system?” Singh replied: “We are prepared to take the most serious actions possible on Iran.”
A spokesman for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sudesh Verma, told Arab News: “The party still has to make up its mind on the issue.”
Harsh V. Pant, head of the Strategic Affairs Programme at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, told Arab News: “India’s official position remains that it doesn’t honor unilateral sanctions, but the reality on the ground is different.”
He said: “India and Iran are trying to see how to bypass the sanctions, but India will find it tough to salvage the relationship with Iran considering the fact that the Trump administration is acting tough. There’s great pressure on India to fall in line.”
He added: “India has already reduced its oil imports from Iran. New Delhi is cognizant of the fact that the US financial system is important for India.”
Ashok Sajjanhar, a former diplomat who served in the Indian Embassy in Iran, told Arab News: “We’re dealing with Washington in a very nimble-footed manner.”
He said: “New Delhi will have to play a very deft balancing act. It might have to taper down its imports, but it won’t go to zero.”
Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.