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A sanctions waiver for India is justified

Iran has been a reliable and cost-effective supplier of energy to the country

editorials Updated: Nov 04, 2018 20:03 IST
US President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Mr Trump’s mercurial nature notwithstanding, the United States will have to show greater understanding for the concerns and interests of India, which it describes as a strategic ally(AP)

India is reportedly among eight countries provided a waiver by the US from sanctions to be reimposed on Iran from November 5 to pressure the West Asian country to discuss a new deal to block it from acquiring nuclear weapons. The sanctions, meant to choke off revenues, are a consequence of President Donald Trump’s decision in May to pull the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal, concluded in 2015 by his predecessor Barack Obama.

India has very sound arguments in seeking a waiver. For decades, Iran has been a reliable and cost-effective supplier of energy to India. During negotiations with the US, India made it clear that completely cutting off oil imports from Iran would impact its energy security and economy. India also argued that since the money owed to Iran for oil purchases would be deposited into an escrow account, there was no chance of it being accessed by Iranian entities that have been accused of terror links by the US. In any case, India’s leadership has publicly contended that in matters such as Iranian oil imports or the purchase of military equipment from Russia, the country will go by sanctions imposed by the United Nations and not any unilateral actions. Unlike Japan and South Korea, which temporarily stopped buying Iranian oil ahead of the sanctions, India placed an order for Iranian crude for November that was marginally lower than its procurement in earlier months. India and Iran, too, worked quietly to fashion a response to the impending sanctions though some concerns remain about the exact form of payments. The Iranian side has never been truly happy with payments in rupees but has had no other viable option.

However, with the US announcing that the waivers to be unveiled on November 5 are temporary in nature and that it expects all buyers of Iranian crude to still “go to zero” in a matter of weeks, there will have to be more complex negotiations on this issue between New Delhi and Washington. Mr Trump’s mercurial nature notwithstanding, the US will have to show greater understanding for the concerns and interests of India, which it describes as a strategic ally. For India, its own national security and energy security interests should be paramount, especially when all other parties to JCPOA have shown an interest in salvaging the deal in some way. The last hasn’t been heard on this front and India should gear up for some more complex negotiations to ensure that its interests aren’t affected.

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First Published: Nov 04, 2018 20:03 IST