Kolkata: India, which imports 80% of its crude oil and relies on Tehran for 12% of those imports, has said it needed to continue to buy Iranian oil to meet its domestic requirements.
The US has been urging India and other countries to slash oil imports from Iran aimed at stepping up pressure on Tehran to comply with international demands over its nuclear programme.
Pressing India to further reduce oil imports from sanctions-hit Iran tops the agenda of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who flew into Kolkata on Sunday at the start of a three-day visit to India.
Though India has publicly not said it was aiming to cut back on oil imports from Iran, the country’s top oil importers have been pushed to reduce Iranian oil imports by 15-20%.
India’s top importers – Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) and Essar Oil will both cut Iranian oil imports this fiscal. MRPL plans to reduce Iranian oil buy to less than 100,000 barrels per day from 142,000 bpd while Essar Oil plans a 15% cut to 85,000 bpd from 100,000 bpd.
US officials, who declined to be named, told the press travelling with Clinton that Washington’s assessment is that India was working satisfactorily in this direction. “But we really need to receive assurances that they are going to continue to make good progress,” they said.
Crude imports from Iran fell to 18.5 million tons in 2010-11 from 21.2 million tons in 2009-10. Last fiscal (2011-12), Iranian oil imports dropped to less than 16 million tons. This year they may further come down to 14 million tons.
The US State Department said in March that 12 countries, including India and China, were at risk of sanctions because of purchases of Iranian oil.