India's cut on Iran oil imports not due to US pressure: Blake

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Washington: US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake said yesterday that India was making progress on reducing dependence on oil imports from Iran not under US pressure but owing to "financial and commercial considerations". Blake said this while responding to questions during a Congressional hearing.

Blake's remarks come against the backdrop of the Indian government saying it has cut the target of crude import from Iran by 11 per cent to 15.5 million tonnes for this financial year. India depends on Iran for 12 per cent of its 80 per cent of crude import. As a result of US sanctions on Iran, it is becoming tough for countries to do business with Iran. Many Indian companies have pulled out of Iran because of market considerations, Blake said.

Welcoming the fall in India's oil import from Iran, Blake said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who recently visited India, has also appreciated the progress. During her India trip, Clinton noted that both the US and India share the same goal on Iran –to prevent the latter from acquiring nuclear weapons. Clinton said that India needed to further reduce imports from Iran to win waiver from US sanctions. It has granted waivers to the sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries but has left out China and India, Iran's biggest clients.

"We continue to urge India to make progress and reduce its import of oil from Iran," Blake said, responding to questions at a hearing on South Asia convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Sub Committee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Responding to a question, Blake conceded that the US is assisting India in identifying alternative sources of energy other than oil from Iran. He said India needs to have a long-term policy of sourcing oil from Saudi Arabia. He also stressed Iraq as an important source for the oil.

The US had sent its top energy official Carlos Pascual to New Delhi for talks with Indian officials on the issue. The Obama administration has been exerting pressure on different countries, including India, to bring down oil imports from Iran.


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