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
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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.


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 20 September 2019

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.