Just as a fresh round of US sanctions is about to hit Iran, the petroleum ministry has asked the state-owned oil refiners to reduce their dependence on crude imports from that country.
An oil company official told HT: “At a meeting with the companies, the oil ministry conveyed that the government has no plans to seek any waiver from the US.”
Reuters quoted an Indian government source as saying that the waiver would provide only a temporary relief of 120 days. “Perhaps the Indian government realises it is better to reduce (Iranian imports) or replace it completely, if possible,” the agency said.
The US’ tension with Iran for its nuclear ambitions came to a head last month when Tehran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, used for 35% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments and 20% of the oil traded worldwide in 2011.
India is the second largest importer of Iranian oil after China and buys about 12% of its crude requirement from that country — 350,000-400,000 barrels per day — at $12 billion (R60,000 crore) a year.
New Delhi may also face hurdles in making payments to Tehran, now being handled through Turkey's Halkbank. Under the new law US president Barack Obama signed on New Year's Eve, the US will stop any institution dealing with Iran's central bank from having access to the US financial system.
Halkbank has already refused to open an account for the state-run Bharat Petroleum Corp for handling Iranian crude import payments.