Unofficially, India, US relieved at Iranian oil waiver | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Unofficially, India, US relieved at Iranian oil waiver

New Delhi played down the US waiving India from Iran-related sanctions, even as Washington played it up.

delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2012 00:43 IST

New Delhi played down the US waiving India from Iran-related sanctions, even as Washington played it up.

Wary of being seen to have reduced Iranian oil imports because of US pressure, India dubbed the waiver a “domestic” US decision. US officials signaled the decision had come straight from the White House and would allow the two countries to work together on higher priority issues like Afghanistan.

The US announced on Monday that India and six other countries were being exempted from sanctions because they had significantly reduced their crude oil imports from Iran. Noticeably, China was not one of the countries mentioned.

“This is a decision taken by the US government under its domestic law”, Syed Akbaruddin, foreign ministry spokesperson said.

India argued it accepted only sanctions approved by the United Nations. Officially, New Delhi said it would ignore the US threats to sanction financial institutions that helped in the import of Iranian crude.

However, Indian crude imports from Iran fell to under 10% now, down from over 20% earlier. The target fixed for import of crude oil from Iran for 2012-13 is about 15.5 million tonnes. Total crude imported from Iran by Indian firms during 2010-11 and 2011-12 is 18.50 million tonnes and 17.44 million tonnes, respectively.

Indian officials have said this fall was largely a consequence of individual refineries shifting to other sources because of financing problems. But New Delhi had quietly urged refineries to diversity their crude sources.

India did try to avoid legitimising the US sanctions by refusing to provide documentation showing its imports had declined. Washington worked it out on the basis of publicly available data and “parliamentary questions.”

But the sanctions issue did threaten to put a spanner in the Indo-US relationship. There was palpable relief on both sides when the waiver came through.

One Indian diplomat told his US counterpart on Monday evening, “You made my day.”

The announcement came just two days before the official Indo-US Strategic Dialogue was to be held. “As they say in Russia, ‘This was no accident’,” said a former diplomat, about the timing of the announcement.

“It would certainly make the atmospherics more positing for a strong third strategic dialogue,” said former US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Karl Inderfurth.

First Published: Jun 12, 2012 23:46 IST