India could be next in the list of nations to be exempted by the US from financial sanctions for slashing purchase of Iranian oil.
New Delhi would be judged soon on the size of annual deals with Tehran beginning April 1, when India's annual contracts with oil-supplying nations will be renewed and signed afresh, official sources told HT.
As already reported by HT first, while the government is publically maintaining that it does not support the US sanctions against Iran and that it will not seek any waiver to the US measures, it has quietly issued informal diktats to state-owned oil refining firms to undertake cuts in oil imports from Iran and diversify the oil importing sources.
The US has recently exempted Japan and 10 European Union (EU) nations from financial sanctions because these countries have slashed purchases of Iranian oil. While all these nations exempted by the US will have a six month reprieve from the threat of being cut off from the US financial system, India and China continue to remain at the risk of such steps.
However, both India and China are now understood to be treading a smart diplomatic path and are working on slashing imports from Iran by 15-20%, the government official said.
India relies hugely on Iran for meeting its oil imports. Iran is India's second-biggest supplier and accounts for about 12% of its oil needs.
The US is likely to decide by the end of June whether to impose sanctions on 12 countries including India and China, with regard to their purchase of crude oil from Iran.
US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is in conversation with these 12 countries on ways and means to avoid the American sanctions against them.