Minister meets Iranian counterpart, says India recognises only UN sanctions
India will not accept sanctions imposed, or to be imposed, by the United States on Iran, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday. The remarks were a categorical rejection of Washington’s decision to withdraw from the six-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and its plans to impose massive new sanctions on Iranian entities.
Ms. Swaraj’s comments came just ahead of a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has been travelling to several capitals including Moscow, Beijing and Brussels, in an effort to salvage the agreement despite the U.S. move.
Not under pressure
“Our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries,” Ms. Swaraj told journalists at a press conference. “We recognise UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn’t follow U.S. sanctions on previous occasions either.”
In a statement on May 13, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said clearly that countries that “continue to deal with Iran could face sanctions”.
Iran is India’s third largest oil supplier, and India has many areas of strategic engagement with Iran, including management of the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar, co-development of the International North-South Transport Corridor to Russia, as well as bilateral trade of about $13 billion of which about $5 billion was in non-oil trade in 2016-17.
Although the figures reduced in 2017, India has committed to increasing its offtake of oil from Iran this year, after President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Modi held talks in Delhi in February.
In a statement issued after Ms. Swaraj’s meeting with Mr. Zarif on Monday, the MEA said the Ministers had “positively assessed the implementation of decisions taken during the visit of President Rouhani to India… [including] in the areas of connectivity, energy, trade and promotion of people to people contacts.”
“EAM conveyed that all parties to the [JCPOA] Agreement should engage constructively for peaceful resolution of the issues that have arisen with respect to the Agreement,” the statement added.
Ms. Swaraj’s comments and the visit by Mr. Zarif to Delhi indicate the government intends to continue its engagement with Iran despite U.S. sanctions. However, Ms. Swaraj did not explain how India would hope to get around banking and insurance restrictions that may come about as the U.S. increases pressure on European banks which the India-Iran trade depends on.