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Heartburn in Washington: India Calls Iran “Critical” to their Energy Future

By John Daly | Wed, 03 July 2013 22:21 | 6

It is no secret that the South and East Asian economies have chafed under the multi-layered sanctions adopted by the United States, European Union and United Nations Security council against Iran for its civilian nuclear activities.

Many in the West see Iran’s nuclear efforts as masking a covert weapons program, which Tehran has stoutly denied.

For the moment India, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan have dodged the penalties accruing from violating U.S. sanctions, as in June 2012, the Obama administration granted exemptions based on reductions of oil purchases from Iran of about 20 percent.

The waivers were renewed on 7 December 2012 for another 180 days, while seventeen EU countries have not been granted exemptions.

Which brings us up to now.

One of the ‘waivered” countries, India, has stated that Iran is “critical” to India’s energy security, a development certain to cause major heartburn in Washington.

Adding to the Obama administration’s concern is undoubtedly the fact that the observation was made not by a low-level functionary but rather, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who told reporters, “We are looking at re-energizing the national North-South Corridor to connect India with Central Asia and Russia through Iran, we are looking at trans-Afghan routes using Iranian port of Chahabar particularly to get access to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. We are looking at a rail link from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan into Iran. Of course, it does make Iran very critical. On the other hand, it makes Afghanistan very critical. Therefore, we hope that within our philosophical approach of being friends, we get Afghanistan back to a stable situation. Afghanistan will then become a bridge for us to Central Asia and Iran as well.”

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Lest no-one be in any doubt about the import of Khursid’s remarks the minister added, “(When) Iran will be able to find a resolution with the European Union + 1 on the issue of nuclear energy so that Iran also becomes an important link between us and Central Asia. It will give us far greater access to Central Asia than we have now.”

Interestingly, Khursid’s remarks at a three-day conference on Central Asia held at the Kashmir University come a mere five days after he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in New Delhi on 24 June. Amid the diplomatic praise Kerry said, “…both of us are particularly eager and committed to taking this relationship to new heights. India and the United States, two of the most powerful economies in the world, two democracies, two countries that share so much in terms of our values and our aspirations, we believe have an opportunity to be able to set a new standard for cooperation on a number of challenges that we all face.”

Shaun Tandon of Agence France Presse asked Kerry, “I wanted to follow up particularly to the Foreign Minister on the issue of Iran. India has kept open dialogue with Iran, has a much better relationship with Iran than the United States does. What was the nature of your discussion, if any, on Iran, and your hopes or your considerations about President-elect Rohani? Thanks.”

Kerry did not mention Iran in his reply.

All of which leads to the following observations.

While the Indian government is extremely interested in an approved relationship with Washington, it will not abandon its own national interests, which include energy security, of which imports from Iran constitute a significant element.

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Secondly, New Delhi is looking at the “bigger picture,” beyond 2014, when the U.S. and International Security Assistance Force drawdown of forces from Afghanistan is due to be complete. India wants a pacified post-occupation of Afghanistan as much as do the post-Soviet states of Central Asia, seeing a quiescent Afghanistan as a major potential economic transit route.

Accordingly, the diplomatic minuet between Washington and New Delhi will continue for the foreseeable future, with the unspoken but overriding question being, who needs the other more?

At the end of the day, Washington cannot make up India’s energy shortfall if it completely abandons Iranian energy imports, and, as India will be a major political player in post-occupation Afghanistan, one can reasonably expect to see a “diplomatic” solution in the probable form of extended “waivers” if the Obama administration wishes to retain a major regional ally.
The “Great Game” continues.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

Leave a comment

  • Amin on July 04 2013 said:
    By now we should all know that sanctions on Iran have more to do with the AIPAC lobby and less to do with their nuclear program. We are at a point where the US Congress decides on what relationship other countries should have with Iran. As sanctions become more and more intrusive on other countries, the dam will burst and that will cut down the US Congress and Administration to size.
  • Frank on July 04 2013 said:
    On June 24 kerry visited India and in that pursuit India announced reductions in imports of oil from Iran as to bring pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme and now they think that Iran an important numerator for oil imports. What Indian really wants to do? The diplomatic minuet between Washington and New Delhi should not be continued for the foreseeable future if they continue to behave with their dubious role.
  • Aabesh Neer on July 04 2013 said:
    Oil isn’t India’s only economic interest in Iran. In the wake of an official Indian delegation’s visit to Tehran, the Associated Chambers of Commerce announced that two-way trade reached $13.7 billion in 2010-2011 and will likely increase to $30 billion by 2015. India is in limbo now because on one hand it wants to negotiate a nuclear deal with USA and signaling them that USA enemies are now India’s enemy. On other hand India is not quitting the relation with Axes of Evil…..
  • rayriaz on July 04 2013 said:
    It`s not Iranian oil India just looking for, the strategic goal India has been desparetely looking to achive by encircling It`s nine time smaller arch rival Pakistan from West(Afghanistan)Pakistan shares about 2600km border with Afghanistan and 800km border with Iran. While India doesn`t share any bordar with Afghanistan or Iran.
  • kamal ud din on July 05 2013 said:
    India on one hand eager to make strong relations with US, and simultaneously “energy security “in terms of oil from Iran, is also important for India. It means that international norms are meaningless when it comes to Indian state interests. Iran which is under the huge burden of economic sanctions will get benefit for its declining economy.
  • Saeed on October 09 2013 said:
    India Has Always Been Known To Play Double Games.They Ditched US Offer of Friendships to Make Friends With USSR to Get Their Technology but When They Went To War with China They Accepted US weapons Openly.Now When The USSR is No More They Have Become Darlings Of USA.
    They Make Civil Nuclear Deals with USA but Also Do Business Deals With Iran.They Extend Hand of Friendship
    to Iran But Also Support Israeli Espionage Efforts Against It

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7199736.stm


    and They Vote Against Iran On IAEA(This Is The Price For Civil Nuclear Agreement)
    Two Words To Describe India's Foreign Policy Characterless and Selfish

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