New Delhi, July 2: Days after India showed signs of bending its back under the Donald Trump Administration's pressure to cut trading ties with Iran -- its ally in West Asia - the latter's leading daily 'Tehran Times' lashed out at New Delhi, asking whether the US president is in charge of India's foreign policy.
In a piece titled the same, the newspaper derided India, one of the three biggest buyers of Iran's oil, buckled under America's pressure even as China and Turkey - the other two - did not. China, India and Turkey account for about half of Tehran's oil exports, the piece said.
"Ankara and Beijing have refused to cut oil imports from Iran, claiming that the corrosively unilateral U.S. sanctions are not binding on them so they won't pay heed to Trump's diktats. China, Iran's biggest purchaser, accounts for about one-quarter of Iran's oil sales - 600,000 barrels a day out of total 2.2 million barrels a day Iran exports. What makes it difficult to persuade China to limit its purchases from Iran is the escalating trade war between Beijing and Washington," the piece said.
India has been stressing on its relation with Iran in the recent times as part of its strategy to corner Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Iran in June 2016 where the development of Chabahar Port as a counter to Gwadar Port in Pakistan was stressed upon. Even when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to India in February this year, there was enough indication that the two sides were working towards an enhanced cooperation. India had faced a similar pressure prior to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the west but things improved after the deal was signed under the Barack Obama administration.
But after Donald Trump took over, things went downhill. A vocal critic of the 2015 deal, Trump eventually pulled out of the deal in May this year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, leaving the entire mechanism derailed. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier said that India did not abide by any unilateral sanctions on Iran but only those approved by the UN. But a few days ago, the oil ministry asked the refiners to get ready for a 'drastic reduction or zero' imports of Iranian oil from November this year soon after US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, visited India and met the Indian leadership. The US also postponed the maiden '2+2' talks between Washington and New Delhi yet again.
"A few weeks ago, India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, in a rebuke to Trump administration, had declared that India will not respect unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran and will recognize only the UN sanctions. It was seen as a principled stand against an unprincipled regime that seeks to impose its hegemony over the world. The vibes were nice but nobody exactly knew what was brewing behind the scenes," the Tehran Times report said.
"A few days ago, less than a month after Swaraj's statement, India buckled under the overwhelming U.S. pressure, betraying national interest and confirming its status as a pygmy, rather than a giant. Incidentally, it happened a day after U.S. ambassador to UN Nikki Haley visited India. India's oil ministry ordered refiners to prepare for drastic reduction or zero import of Iranian oil from November when the 180-day wind-down period ends. The news stirred hornet's nest in India as any cut in Iranian oil means substantial jump in oil prices in India, which will hit people hard."
The piece blasted the Modi government saying it acted over an "ill-advised" decision that will only hurt India's global reputation. It said responsible nation states act responsibly and never allowed anyone to bully or threaten them but by bowing under the US's pressure, India not just "risked its age-old ties with Tehran" but also got its weak diplomacy exposed.
"India's foolhardy decision to cut Iranian oil imports under U.S. pressure at a time when the U.S. government has imposed higher tariff on many Indian products shows how the power dynamics work. However, the mood is Iran remains upbeat. Iranians are not panicking just because India has backstabbed them. The country has seen the worst and bounced back stronger every time," it added.