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On Iran, the US

Young Bites. Dated: 7/7/2018 11:53:14 AM

should be willing to consider the interests of India
After all the tough talk by the US about countries cutting oil purchases from Iran to zero by November 4, India will have a chance to discuss the issue of crucial energy imports when a team of officials from the state and treasury departments visits the country this month. The Trump administration’s initial announcement that the US expects all Iranian oil imports to stop within just four months roiled markets across the world and set even American allies on edge. Since then, a mid-level official of the state department has sought to reassure markets by saying the US is willing to work with countries that reduce Iranian oil imports on a case-by-case basis. This slight softening of the US position opens the door for discussions when the American officials are in Delhi. The Obama administration had made a similar exception for countries such as India and China, the two largest buyers of Iranian crude, but the new regime under President Donald Trump is expected to be more heavy-handed with the implementation of sanctions when they kick in, largely because of its desire to increase pressure on Tehran for a regime change. Despite the pressure from the US, Indian official sources who briefed the media on Wednesday made it clear that Iran, India’s third largest supplier of oil, remains an “important near neighbour”. Whatever India’s concerns are about Iran’s nuclear programme, which Delhi has voted against at forums such as the United Nations, it is unlikely that it can cut off such a reliable supplier of energy in the short timeframe proposed by the US. The Trump administration’s action is an outcome of its decision to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal. China, which has said it will work with France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the European Union to salvage the nuclear deal at crunch talks in Vienna this week, is unlikely under any circumstance to cut its oil imports, given that it’s also engaged in looming trade war with the US. The US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, indicated in her discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month that the US will work with India for the development of Chabahar port in Iran as part of a transport corridor that could boost trade in Afghanistan. This is because the project dovetails with US interests in Afghanistan. By the same logic, it stands to reason that the US should be willing to consider the interests of India — which it describes as a key ally — as far as Iranian oil imports are concerned. Surely, this is a concept even the transactional US president can latch on to.


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