Iran’s ambassador to India Ali Chegini on Monday urged New Delhi to follow an independent line and take advantage of the opportunities presented by Iran in the oil and gas sector.
Drawing an obvious comparison with the position taken by China, Chegini said Beijing had refused to adhere to the sanctions imposed by the US targeting Iran’s oil and financial sectors.
“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, Chegini told the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents in New Delhi.
India stopped crude oil imports from Iran on 2 May after the US sanctions. Last year, US President Donald Trump had walked out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, signed between Iran and six countries representing the international community. India, which says that it only recognizes United Nations-mandated sanctions and not those imposed by specific countries, has been adhering to the US sanctions as they target public and private companies doing business with Iran.
According to Chegini, China was not adhering to the US-imposed sanctions and had agreed to invest $280 billion in Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical sectors that are being affected by US sanctions. News reports said the pact was clinched during Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif’s visit to China in August.
In return, Iran will grant Chinese companies priority in tenders for any new or incomplete projects to develop oil and gas fields, as well as petrochemical projects, according to the news reports.
“We are ready to have the same agreement as with China, with India, maybe even more than that," Chegini said.
There is the option of trading in local currencies to pay for oil that India buys from Iran, or doing barter trade, that is, Tehran will buy goods from India in return for the oil that its exports without paying a cent, the Iranian ambassador added.
Zarif had visited India in May, days after the US sanctions kicked in on 2 May with New Delhi then conveying to him that the Indian government would take a decision after the national polls ended on 19 May.
With the US pushing India to end its oil trade with Tehran and New Delhi unwilling to jeopardize its rapidly warming ties with Washington, it was clear that India would steer clear of buying oil from Iran. The US had also helped India get Pakistan-based Jaish-e Mohammed terrorist group chief Maulana Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist under UN norms and had made it clear that it expected reciprocity.
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. “We should decide who we should love," Chegini said, adding “The government of India based on their national interest should decide."
On the development of the Chabahar port, 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 neighbouring Pakistan. “We would like our brothers from India to be much more active in Chabahar." New Delhi views the port as its gateway to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan. “India is serious, but whatever China is spending and working in Gwadar is not comparing with India," he said.
The US has exempted Indian investments in Chabahar from sanctions given that New Delhi sees it as a gateway to Afghanistan but Indian companies, fearful of possible repercussions of investing in Iran, have stayed away.