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India Cuts Iran Oil Imports Sharply In June

Iranian crude oil imports into India fell by 15.9 percent in June from May, or to 592,800 bpd from more than 705,000 bpd in the previous month, Reuters reports, citing shipping data. The drop suggests that despite its initially tough stance on U.S. sanctions, Indian refiners have started changing their mind as the November 4 deadline to wind down business relations with Iran draws nearer.

Refiners have started looking for alternative suppliers, but the price is once again not right for them, as the head of the largest Indian refiner and fuel retailer, Indian Oil Corp. said earlier this week. The Iran sanctions are one of the top reasons for the price rally that has come to bite India’s refiners amid surging domestic demand for fuels, so chances are New Delhi will try to secure a waiver.

Meanwhile, however, the Indian government has become the target of criticism both at home and in Iran after it gave in to U.S. pressure and refiners began cutting imports. The deputy ambassador of Iran to India, Massoud Rezvanian Rahaghi said, speaking at an event in new Delhi, that India will lose its “special privileges” if it suspends Iranian oil purchases in November.

India is one of the United States’ most important allies in Asia, especially right now, with the trade war with China getting hotter and hotter. Yet at the same time, the country has close ties with Iran. The two, along with Afghanistan, two years ago sealed a deal for a transport and transit corridor, including for energy supplies. A major maritime transport hub along this corridor was to be Chabahar, which India had promised to help finance. Now, Rahaghi has accused New Delhi of failing to stick to its promise, hinting that relations may not remain rosy for long.

India imports more than 80 percent of the oil it needs. The average daily rate for 2017 was 4.4 million bpd—a record high. It is evident that Iranian crude accounts for a substantial chunk of the total and finding an alternative at competitive prices will be a challenge.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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