India ignores US, keeps Iran ties | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India ignores US, keeps Iran ties

delhi Updated: Mar 01, 2012 01:06 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta

Even as US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has gone public with a "blunt and intense" message to India to isolate Iran, New Delhi has continued with functional and transactional relationship with Tehran.

In its efforts to shore up peace efforts in Afghanistan, India has for the first time used the Chabahar port to move 100,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Kabul.

Chabahar, in south Iran bordering Pakistan, is the port closest to and directly linked with Afghanistan. India's usual route to Kabul is the longer Zaranj-Delaram highway.

"We have had very intense and very blunt conversations with each of those countries (India, as well as China and Turkey) and I think that there are a number of steps that we are pointing out to them that we believe they can and should take," Clinton said on Tuesday.

The steps include reduced dependency on Iranian oil and isolation of Tehran for its alleged nuclear programme.

Notwithstanding American assertions, which were answered in equal terms by foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai during his US visit this month, India is taking practical steps to pay for Iranian oil without violating UN sanctions.

A Central Bank of Iran team is in Delhi to find a way out for crude oil payments from India. India buys $12 billion worth of crude from Iran but cannot make payments due to sanction on banks.

Since India, for strategic reasons, cannot afford to put all it eggs in the Saudi crude basket, it is sending an official trade delegation to Iran on March 10-14 to increase imports in non-sanctioned items to balance the oil payments.

In this context, India will increase wheat, rice and medicine exports to Iran so that it can pay for the Iranian oil in kind.

The Centre knows that despite sanctions, European countries are minting money supplying drugs to Iran.

New Delhi needs Tehran's ports, particularly Chahbahar, to reach out to Afghanistan and Central Asia as the US has never put pressure on Pakistan to provide the Wagah-Khyber axis for its goods.