New Delhi: Ahead of the US sanctions aimed at cutting Tehran’s oil exports to zero, the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, after a meeting with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, said on Thursday that New Delhi is committed to buying Iranian oil and continuing the two nations’ economic cooperation, according to a Reuters report.

US, after withdrawing from the 2015 Iranian nuclear pact this May, has been pushing allies to cut Iranian oil imports to zero once it reimposes sanctions on Tehran from November 4.

US President Donald Trump has called for OPEC members, primarily US ally Saudi Arabia, to raise production, and warned importers to stop buying oil from Iran or face American sanctions.

Zarif’s comments came after his meeting with Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

“Our friends have been categorical in terms of their intention to continue economic cooperation and (the) import of oil from Iran. And I heard the same statement from my Indian counterpart,” Reuters quoted Zarif as saying.

“We have comprehensive cooperation with India and that comprehensive cooperation also includes energy cooperation because Iran has always been a reliable source of energy for India,” he added.

Earlier, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told reporters that “India remains engaged with all stakeholders who are part of the process and Iran is one of them”.

“On the issue of sanctions, India remains engaged with all stakeholders who are part of the process and Iran is one of them. So, it was natural that the issue of sanctions did come up during the meeting,” he said.

Kumar said before the sanctions come into effect, India has been talking to several partners and countries on the issue.
“We are engaged with all countries in this regard. We hope that our positions, sensitivities, concerns, which we have explained to the US, must have been taken into account by them. It’s not only a question of purchasing oil from Iran but it is also a question of relationship,” he said.

Kumar described the talks with Iran as a “good meeting”, saying the two countries share strong civilisation bonds and go back a long way.

While India, which is Iran’s second-largest oil buyer after China, has reduced its import of Iranian oil, it has not yet decided whether to completely cut on oil purchases from Tehran.

However, Moody’s Investors Service said on Thursday that Indian refiners will either have to significantly reduce or completely stop importing crude oil from Iran over the next month, increasing their dependence on other Middle Eastern suppliers like Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

It said India imported 220.4 million tonne (MT) of crude oil in 2017-18 fiscal, out of which about 9.4 per cent was from Iran. During April-August 2018, India imported 94.9 MT of crude, out of which about 14.4 per cent was from Iran.

Exports to India accounted for 21 per cent of Iran’s crude oil outbound shipments in 2017-18 and 30 per cent from April to August 2018.

Meanwhile, the US said it will take into consideration the impact of American sanctions against Tehran on India’s Chabahar port project in Iran that provides a surface link between India and Afghanistan, according to a senior US State Department official.

“When it comes to Chabahar, we are in the process of reviewing the imposition of sanctions,” Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, told IANS in an interview.

“So that process (of review) is underway and we take India’s concerns and interest in being able to expand exports to Afghanistan and to increase Afghanistan exports to India, very seriously.

“As we look at the reinforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the sanctions, we will, I think carefully, evaluate the impact that it could have, for instance on Afghanistan,” Wells added.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany and the European Union, to end sanctions in return for Tehran stopping nuclear weapons development.