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India Cuts Iranian Oil Imports As U.S. Sanctions Loom

Indian refiners are reducing their intake of Iranian crude oil in preparation for the return of U.S. sanctions on Tehran. The reduction is being seen as an attempt to score a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department, Reuters reports. Loadings for September and October will be lower than 12 million barrels each month, which is nearly half of what they imported earlier this year in preparation for the sanctions.

India’s Foreign Minister stated earlier this year that New Delhi will not honor unilateral sanctions from the United States, but due to its exposure to the U.S. financial system it has had to lessen its reliance on Iranian crude. India is Iran’s second-largest oil client after China, which has also stated it will continue buying Iranian crude.

India imports as much as 80 percent of the oil it consumes, which makes it more vulnerable than other importers to price swings. This vulnerability has, in recent months, been heightened by a devaluation in the rupee, which has led to a considerable swelling in its oil bill. In August, government calculations revealed this bill could rise by as much as US$26 billion in financial 2018/2019 if prices remain high.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited New Delhi to try and negotiate a total suspension of Indian imports of Iranian oil and said after the meeting Washington was ready to grant temporary waivers to clients such as India in exchange for assurances that they will eventually stop importing Iranian oil.

This will be tricky, as Iran offers attractive discounts to its clients and as New Delhi strives to maintain its good relations with Tehran. “We have a special relationship with both the U.S. and with Iran, and we are seeing how to balance this all, and also to balance out the interest of the refiners and end-consumers,” Reuters quoted Indian government officials as saying. They added, however, that if Washington decides to be unyielding, India will have to comply with the sanctions and stop buying Iranian crude.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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