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September 11, 2019

Ban on oil imports: India shouldn’t have obeyed US, says Iran

New Delhi: Months after India decided to shut down oil imports from Iran in keeping with the sanctions imposed by the United States, the Iranian Ambassador to India said it is hurting the India-Iran bilateral trade and the former's future in Chabahar port.

Breaking silence on New Delhi's move to “zero out” oil purchases after May 2 this year, Iran's envoy Ali Chegeni said India had “fought hard for its independence” and should not have given in to “unilateral sanctions” from the US, The Hindu reported.

Speaking to the members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents on Monday, Chegeni said, “It is now official that India has stopped importing oil from Iran because of what it says is its own national interest.”

Chegeni pointed out the adverse effect of India's move on bilateral trade, saying, “If there are no oil payments due from India, how we can buy from India?"

Further, referring to countries including China, Russia, and Turkey, who have kept up their energy engagement with Iran, he said, "This is India’s sovereign decision, but others have chosen differently.”

Trouble Ahead

The Iranian Ambassdor's comments that ensued on India’s plans to build a railway line connecting Chabahar port to the Afghan border at Zahedan can be a worrisome affair for New Delhi as the construction of the Shahid Beheshti terminal is an integral part of its trade and connectivity routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan.

India’s development work had been “very slow” despite the US sanctions waiver for Chabahar, Chegeni said. Therefore, the Iranian government had decided to finish the railroad project by 2021 using its own resources.

Doubting India's interest in LNG imports from Iran any longer, the envoy said that Iran is now discussing an LNG pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“If India wants energy security, it should prefer Iran as a dependable supplier,” said Mr. Chegeni. “We love the Indian people. But we cannot force somebody to love us. The Government of India has to decide according to its national interest. Just as the Chinese have,” he added.

Ban on oil imports: India shouldn’t have obeyed US, says Iran

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