Indian refiners send mixed signals on Iran sanctions
India’s state refiners raised Iranian oil imports in June even though overall loadings from the Islamic Republic declined in the month, reports citing new shipping data on Wednesday said.
State refiners lifted some 454,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil in June, about 10 percent more from May, Reuters news agency reported.
However, lower purchases by private refiners dragged down India’s June imports from Iran. According to the report, India’s oil imports from Iran declined by 15.9 percent.
The Indian government has ordered the state refiners to raise Iran oil imports in the current fiscal year starting in April after Tehran offered free shipping and an extended credit period of 60 days.
India’s state refiners more than doubled their oil imports from Iran in the first quarter of the fiscal year, during which the country lifted 24 percent more Iranian oil from the previous quarter.
Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan confirms that his country’s refiners will boost oil imports from Iran in 2018 after getting “good incentives”.
June marked the first decline in India’s imports since the Trump administration pledged to bring Iran’s oil exports down to zero after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Last month, Reuters cited Indian sources as saying that New Delhi was moving closer to a scheme to make some oil payments to Iran in rupees in a bid meant to avoid US economic sanctions.
New US sanctions on oil and transactions with the Central Bank of Iran are about to come into effect on November 6.
India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in May that New Delhi would keep trading with Iran and would only follow sanctions imposed by the United Nations and not those imposed by any other country against the Islamic Republic.
“India follows only UN sanctions and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she said when asked about New Delhi’s response to the US decision to withdraw from the key nuclear agreement and re-impose sanctions against Tehran.
Iranian diplomat’s warning
Nevertheless, Indian media on Wednesday reported that an Iranian diplomat based in New Delhi had criticized India for not fulfilling its promise of making investments in expansion of the strategically-located Chabahar port
They quoted Iran’s Deputy Ambassador and Charge d’Affaires Massoud Rezvanian Rahaghi as saying that New Delhi would stand to lose “special privileges” if it cut imports of Iranian oil.
His warning came amid reports that India’s private refiners were trying to source oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iraq, the US and others to offset cuts in Iranian oil.
“It is unfortunate that Indian investment promises for expansion of Chabahar port and its connectivity projects have not been accomplished so far,” Press Trust of India quoted Rezvanian Rahaghi as saying.
“It is expected that India takes immediate necessary measures in this regard if its cooperation and engagement in Chabahar port is of strategic nature,” he said.
Iran has awarded a much-awaited agreement to India over the partial management of its strategic Chabahar port.
Rezvanian Rahaghi was reportedly speaking at a seminar on “emerging challenges and opportunities in the global diplomacy and its impact on bilateral ties with India.”
The senior diplomat said his country has been a reliable energy partner for India and that Iran always follows a “rationale pricing” of oil which ensures the interest of both consumers and suppliers, India’s largest news agency reported.
Chabahar has strategic significance for India, providing the energy-hungry country with direct access to Iran’s abundant oil and gas resources and allowing it to reach Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia by land.