Iran urges India to follow China’s lead on US sanctions
India should follow China’s example in refusing to adhere to US sanctions on Iran and take advantage of the opportunities presented in the Iranian oil and gas sector, Iran’s ambassador to New Delhi has said.
India and China – both rising economic powers and competitors for influence – are Iran’s key trade partners.
India was Iran’s second largest oil customer, importing 457,000 barrels of oil a day before the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in May 2018. New Delhi, however, stopped crude oil imports from Iran on May 2 when US sanctions on the Iranian oil sector kicked in.
Iran’s Ambassador to India Ali Chegini urged New Delhi to follow an independent line, drawing an obvious comparison with the position taken by Beijing which he said has refused to abide by the sanctions, Indian media reported on Tuesday.
“If India wants energy security, it should look at a stable source like Iran because of its resources, a strong government-to-government relationship, and the friendship between the two countries,” Indian financial daily newspaper Mint quoted Chegini as saying.
According to the publication, Chegini said China had agreed to invest $280 billion in Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical sectors.
“We are ready to have the same agreement as with China, with India, maybe even more than that," the ambassador told the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents in New Delhi, the paper said.
China’s plan was first reported last week by the Petroleum Economist, a well-regarded energy industry publication based in London.
It is part a 25-year deal signed first in 2016 that foresees $400 billion of Chinese investment in Iran, the publication said.
Iran, in return, will grant Chinese companies right of the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gas field developments.
The deal, including another $120 billion investment in upgrading Iran's transport and manufacturing infrastructure, was updated when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Beijing at the end of August, the report said.
While China has steadfastly pushed back against the United States on Iran sanctions, India has appeared unwilling to jeopardize its rapidly warming ties with Washington and steered clear of buying oil from Iran.
Chegini agreed that countries followed their national interests but he also underlined that India had followed an independent foreign policy that would allow it to take independent decisions, Mint reported.
“We should decide who we should love," Chegini said, adding “The government of India based on their national interest should decide."
India is a key stake-holder in developing Chabahar port complex on Iran’s coast along the Gulf of Oman, coveting it as a transportation corridor to reach land-locked Afghanistan as well as the resource-rich countries of Central Asia, Russia and beyond.
While the US has exempted Indian investments in Chabahar from sanctions, Chegini said the pace of development by Indian companies was much slower than that of Chinese companies working on the development of the Gwadar port in neighboring Pakistan.
“India is serious, but whatever China is spending and working in Gwadar is not comparing with India," he said. “We would like our brothers from India to be much more active in Chabahar."
Chegini, nevertheless, was sanguine about the prospects of relations, noting that bilateral trade that stood at $13.7 billion is currently at $18 billion, despite the loss of oil revenues.
“There is a capacity to promote trade to $50 billion,” he said.