New Delhi: The inaugural 2+2 dialogue between India and the US concluded with the two nations signing the crucial Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) agreement and discussing key issues like cross-border terrorism, India’s NSG bid and the contentious H-1B visa issue. Also Read - Coronavirus: Trump Tests Negative For Second Time, Says 'It Took Just 15 Minutes For The Result'
However, the US did not make its stand clear on whether it will grant waivers for New Delhi from sanctions on Iran and Russia over the crude oil imports from Tehran and the S-400 anti-aircraft missile defence system from Moscow. Also Read - With 4475 Deaths, Coronavirus Has Now Killed More People in The US Than the 9/11 Terror Attacks
The two issues were assumed to be on primary focus during the 2+2 bilateral talks. Also Read - US Sets New Record as 884 Die Within 24 Hours Due to COVID-19; Total Cases Stand at 2,13,372
After the 2+2 dialogue, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview with journalists, said that the US still wanted every country to reduce its oil imports from Iran to zero, adding that the US consider waivers to India where appropriate.
“We have told the Indians consistently, as we have told every nation, that on November 4th the sanctions with respect to Iranian crude oil will be enforced. We will consider waivers where appropriate, but that it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed,” said Pompeo.
The US has told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone. However, New Delhi has expressed its inability to scrap oil imports from Iran completely as its supplies are being offered at competitive rates.
Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier behind Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil during April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of 2017-18 fiscal).
“So we’ll work with the Indians. We committed that we would do that. Many countries are in a place where it takes a little bit of time to unwind, and we’ll work with them, I am sure, to find an outcome that makes sense,” the top US diplomat said.
“And from whence they purchase the other crude oil, we’re happy to see if it’s American products that are able to deliver for them. I think that’d be a great outcome.
But our mission set is to make sure that Iran doesn’t engage in malign behaviour with wealth that comes from countries around the world, thus the purpose of the sanctions,” he said.
When asked if the Trump administration could grant India a waiver from Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on India’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 missile and air-defense system, Pomepo said the no decision has been taken on it yet. He, however, said that Washington’s intention is not to “penalise great strategic partners like India”, which is a major defence partner of the US.
“There’s been no decision made. But I will share that we do understand the history, right, of India’s relationship with Russia and legacy systems. Our effort here, too, is not to penalise great strategic partners like India, a major defence partner.
“The sanctions aren’t intended to adversely impact countries like India. They are intended to have an impact on the sanctioned country, which is Russia,” the secretary of state said.
“And so we’ll work our way through the waiver decision as the days and weeks proceed, and we’ll do that alongside our partner, India, as well,” he said.
He said the US was working to impose CAATSA Section 231 in a way that is appropriate and lawful and to exercise that waiver authority only where it makes sense.
“And we as a team, the national security team, will work on that, and as we continue to have these conversations with India about that, I think come to an outcome that makes sense for each of our two countries,” he said.
India is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf missile air defence systems from Russia for around USD 4.5 billion.
The purchase will violate sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by Congress on arms purchases from Russia, but lawmakers have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.