During a media briefing on the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy initiatives to mark the first 100 days of his second term in office, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said: “Regarding the energy issue with Iran, our interest today is in (having) access to affordable and predictable energy sources.”
“We are in dialogue with all oil suppliers, including Iran,” the minister added.
“I think the issues that have come up are not of our making. I think the Iranians understand that,” Jaishankar said apparently referring to New Delhi’s decision to suspend oil supplies from Tehran in May this year due to the threat of US trade sanctions.
“We have to see whether the landscape changes and what possibilities are thereafter there,” he said, adding: “The issue regarding oil supplies from Iran is not static and there are several moving parts.”
The minister’s statement assumes significance in the wake of Iran’s envoy to India Ali Chegeni, who said last week that New Delhi’s decision to stop oil imports from Tehran due to a sanctions threat by Washington was hurting bilateral trade and prospects of India’s future involvement in the development of the Chabahar port.
The envoy said India should not have given in to “unilateral sanctions” from the US.
“If there are no oil payments due from India, how we can buy from India? This is India’s sovereign decision, but others have chosen differently,” he said in New Delhi on 9 September.
He was referring to countries like China, Russia and Turkey who have retained their energy ties with Iran.
That statement was followed by India and Iran holding their 16th round of Foreign Office Consultations in Tehran last weekend to review bilateral cooperation.
The meeting, co-chaired by Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Seyyed Abbas Araghchi, took place amidst pressure to resume crude imports from Iran.
During the meeting, both sides reviewed the development of Iran's strategic Chabahar Port to fully operationalise the trilateral agreement between India, Iran, and Afghanistan.
“The two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation, ongoing connectivity and infrastructure development projects, including the development of Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar and full operationalisation of the Trilateral Transit Agreement (Chabahar Agreement) between India, Iran and Afghanistan,” a release of the Indian foreign ministry said.
Chabahar Port is considered a golden gateway for New Delhi’s trade with Iran, Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia. The port, situated on the Indian Ocean in Iran's Sistan Province, is easily accessible from India’s western coast.
Currently, India has the capacity to meet about 12 days’ of the country’s crude oil requirement. In the current fiscal year (2019-20), India has imported 4.5 million barrels per day (MBPD) of crude oil, which is 0.1 MBPD less compared with import volumes in the corresponding period in 2018-19.
US sanctions on Iran have led to a decline in India’s oil imports.
There has been pressure on India to resume crude imports from Iran after facilities owned by Saudi Aramco, one of the largest oil producers in the world, were attacked over the weekend. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest sources of crude oil for India and Aramco is reported to have assured New Delhi that it would ensure a steady supply to India.