‘No compromise on energy security’
With about 72 hours to go for the United States deadline on sanctions on oil trade with Iran as well as dealing with ports and shipping, Indian officials were cautiously optimistic they will receive a waiver from Washington. The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said India has been in talks with the U.S. as well as with Iran to ensure uninterrupted energy supply.
“The U.S. is well aware of our requirement for oil domestically, which is critical for sustaining our economic growth. We have taken note of the U.S. position that the intention of imposing sanctions on Iran is not to hurt India. We will continue to engage with the U.S. and other stakeholders so that our energy security is not compromised,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
The U.S. had called for all countries to “zero out” their oil purchases from Iran, which India has not done. However, U.S. officials are compiling a list of those countries that have significantly reduced their oil imports from Tehran, who would qualify for waivers, and India expects to be on that list. The waivers “look likely but not yet formally decided”, a government official told The Hindu, indicating that the final word rests with U.S. President Donald Trump who must sign them before November 4.
“These are matters that our two governments are discussing and we are together working on it. I am not in a position to make statements on this issue at this time,” U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster told reporters recently.
Significantly, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had mentioned India’s intention to go ahead with the Chabahar project in the US Ambassador’s presence at the same event, blaming Pakistan for “blighting” India’s connectivity options to the West.
“We have sought to bypass an unwilling regime in Islamabad by establishing in June 2017 an air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan, [and] develop the Chabahar Port as a gateway for onward connectivity to and from Afghanistan and Central Asia,” Mr Gokhale said.
Mr. Juster also denied that India’s position on the sanctions had anything to do with US President Trump’s decision to regret India’s invitation to the Republic Day Parade. ” This was completely a scheduling issue, ” Mr. Juster told reporters.
“The State of the Union address is around the same time. Right now there is no speaker of the House and the speaker decides the date of SOTU.”