‘Indebted’ India presses Iran for gas field

India has discussed ways of repaying $6.5 billion in overdue debt to Iran and development of a major gas field in the Persian Gulf, New Delhi-based media say. 

A delegation visited Tehran last week to expedite the repayment and also present India’s fresh bid for the development of Farzad-B gas field, the Financial Express reported.

Farzad-B is part of the Farsi block in the Persian Gulf which Iran awarded to India’s ONGC Videsh (OVL) in 2002 but cancelled the contract after the state-run Indian consortium dragged its feet on starting the development work.

The paper said new talks between Iranian officials and the Indian delegation representing economic and petroleum ministries and OVL were “amicable”.

The Reserve Bank of India has been reportedly approached for a feasible route for crude oil payments to Iran but “nothing concrete has happened as of now”, it said.

“We should be able to come up with some clarity in the next 10 days,” it quoted an official who visited Tehran as saying.

According to the paper, India’s state-owned UCO Bank have already tied up with Iran’s Parsian, Pasargad, Saman and EN Banks for the settlement of dues.

Iran’s Government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said in May India’s debt to the Islamic Republic amounted to $8.8 billion.

The money has piled up as India kept purchasing oil — though at drastically slashed levels — from Iran under a nuclear agreement which allows the Islamic Republic to sell around one million barrels per day of crude.

OVL Managing Director N K Verma also held “positive” talks with officials of the National Iranian Oil Company about the development of the Farzad-B field, the Indian report said.

There was no immediate comment by Iranian officials on Saturday.

Last month’s breakthrough in nuclear talks with Iran has generated new interest among Indian officials and traders for business with the Islamic Republic.

New Delhi scaled back business with Iran under US pressures and most of its projects in the Islamic Republic were characterized by repeated delays.

India has signed an MoU for development of Iran’s strategic Chabahar port.

Last month, Iran’s Ambassador to New Delhi Gholamreza Ansari said Tehran has offered India $8 billion worth of infrastructure projects, including a stake in developing the strategic port of Chabahar.

Ansari cited a “golden time” for India to seize on investment opportunities in Iran. He said the Indians were still the “first priority” to develop the Farzad field but “if they drag their feet, the market will not wait”.

On Thursday, another Indian newspaper said the country’s officials would push for the revival of the $7-billion gas pipeline from Iran which has to cross Pakistan.

India dropped out of the massive project under US pressure but a recent opening in the business environment in Iran has prompted Indian leaders to make a fresh bid for the pipeline, the Economic Times reported, citing informed sources.

By Press TV