As US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s three-day visit to the country is set to coincide with that of a 56-member trade delegation from Tehran, India will have to carefully balance its diplomatic and trade agendas next week.
While India is keen to boost its exports and reduce the trade imbalance tilted in favour of Iran, New Delhi is also keen on winning a waiver from Washington on the oil-rich country. The US is expected to shortly announce the second list of countries to be exempted from its sanctions, imposed to prevent Tehran from going ahead with its nuclear programme.
The annual bilateral transactions between India and Iran currently stand at around $15 billion. However, while India imports crude oil worth $13 billion annually from the country, it exports goods worth only $2 billion. India wants to correct this anomaly by enhancing its exports to Iran.
A senior official said that taking Washington’s anti-Tehran stand into account, New Delhi has to walk a diplomatic tightrope in this regard. The Iranian trade delegation will holds trade talks with India’s commerce secretary Rahul Khullar on Monday evening.
Sources also disclosed that in the course of the wide-ranging talks between Clinton and external affairs minister SM Krishna, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, she will be updated on New Delhi’s efforts to diversify its sources of oil and reduce dependence on Iran. While India publicly denounces US sanctions against Iran, it has been pushing its oil companies to cut imports of oil from Iran by 15-20% — a figure that would hopefully be enough to win a waiver from Washington.
The US had left both India and China out of a list of 11 countries that were granted exemptions from its sanctions. “India may be next in line for exemption by the US from financial sanctions, aimed at slashing purchase of Iranian oil,” a government official said.
US and European Union sanctions have made it difficult for India to pay for Iranian oil imports worth nearly $11 billion.