US delegation arriving for oil import talks, India tells Iran ‘no final’ decision yet

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale (L) and Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran Dr. Seyyed Abbas Araghchi lead Foreign Office Consultations in Delhi About three weeks to go for the first set of US sanctions on Iran to kick in from August 6, a delegation from the US is arriving New Delhi to engage on the Iranian issue.

According to sources, to deal with impact of US sanctions, India could revive rupee-rial arrangement for importing oil from Iran. New Delhi would prefer the Trump administration to consider providing it some waiver from the ‘sanctions’. However, in recent weeks, the American leadership has ruled out any waiver.

“We are not looking to grant licenses or waivers…..But we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis,” Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning at the State Department has been quoted as saying.

India admits about “pressure” from the US but said this was not a stand alone case and negotiations were viable options.

In fact, New Delhi is pursuing multiple level parleys with the US administration and as part of that exercise, a high-level delegation led by Joint Secretary in Commerce Ministry Santosh Sarangi will visit America for talks including on “greater market access to reduce trade imbalance” – a subject of US preference.

In related development, amid persistent pressure from the US to halt its oil imports from Iran, India and Iran on Monday exchanged views here on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, and tried to assess the possible impact on oil trade after the US sanctions.

India side informed Iranian authorities that it has not taken any final decision on ‘complying’ with the US sanctions and would like to continue engagement with the Americans.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale led the Indian delegation while the visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Seyyed Abbas Araghchi led the Iranian side at the fifteenth round of Foreign Office Consultations.
Mr Abbas Araghchi also called on the Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar.

“Views were (also) exchanged on regional and international issues of mutual interest, including the efforts being made by various parties to address issues that have arisen over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” an MEA statement said.

There was also agreement that both sides would maintain the “momentum of mutually beneficial multifaceted bilateral cooperation” and exchanges between the two sides. The next round of Joint Commission Meeting at the level of External Affairs Minister will be held in November 2018 in Iran, MEA said.

India is faced with a “challenging situation” after the US in May this year withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal to create pressure against Tehran’s atomic program. Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said while Iran is an age-old partner, with the US also India’s has a special strategic relationship.

The second set of US sanctions on Iran is scheduled to commence from November 4 and Washington has urged New Delhi and Beijing among others to reduce oil import to zero by then.
New Delhi has insisted that its final policy decision on US sanctions row with Iran will be guided strictly by national interests.

MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar said last week here that India would welcome greater engagements with the US on the sanctions row. “One thing is very clear; that whatever is mandated in our national interests will be done,” he asserted.

He also said New Delhi does share very good relationship with Tehran.
At Monday’s interactions in Delhi, Iran and India also “reviewed and positively assessed” the progress in implementation of decisions taken during the State visit of the President of Iran to India in February 2018.
Other issues including implementation of Chabahar port project also figured, sources said.

The Iran Nuke deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was inked on July 14, 2015 between Iran and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States and also Germany and the European Union.

Under the agreement, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 per cent and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years.
In dramatic turn of events the Trump administration has recently abandoned the nuke deal.

Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Last month, an official delegation also visited France, Germany and Brussels to assess EU mood over US moves. Iranian Embassy had said recently that Iran will do its best to ensure security of oil supply to India by offering various flexible measures.

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