PM Modi meeting petroleum, MEA officials today on Iran oil imports

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet government officials across ministries like petroleum, external affairs and finance later today to figure out ways for continuing with oil imports from Iran in the face of sanctions by the United States, three people familiar with the matter said.

India imports 83% of its oil requirements, and about 9.4% of the 220.4 million metric tonnes (million MT) of crude oil imported by India in 2017-18 was from Iran.

Increasing tensions between the US and Venezuela, the US demanding an end to all imports of Iranian oil by early November and the rupee being Asia’s worst performing currency of the year have compounded the situation and put India in a difficult spot.

Government officials said, given India’s dependence on oil imports, the nation will continue to import oil from Iran. The meeting will figure out ways on how to continue with Iran imports but at the same time reduce the dependence on Iran imports to some extent and how to make the import payments.

The meeting comes even as Indian officials were holding talks on Friday with US’ interlocutor for Iran Brian Hook in New Delhi.

Earlier on Friday, US State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a Twitter post disclosed that Hook was travelling to India and Europe as the deadline for a second set of punishing US sanctions was to take effect from 4 November.

“Special Rep for Iran Brian Hook is traveling on Oct 10-17 to #India & #Europe to further discuss U.S. foreign policy toward #Iran. During this trip, he will engage our allies & partners on our shared need to counter the entirety of the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior,” Nauert said.

In New Delhi, Hook and US assistant Secretary of State for energy resources Francis R Fannon “will meet with Indian government counterparts for consultations,” a separate state department statement said.

Sanctions on Iran was a subject India and the US discussed during the 6 September inaugural “2+2” dialogue in New Delhi. Indian foreign and defence ministers — Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman — had then held talks with their US counterparts Mike Pompeo and James Mattis. Indian officials had later said that the US had then given India a patient hearing and then conveyed that fuel import dependent India would “not be left be left high and dry.”