New Delhi’s ties with Tehran not influenced by third parties: Official

Tasnim – Less than three weeks before the first wave of US sanctions against Iran kicks in, India on Thursday made it clear that its bilateral relations with Tehran stand on their own and are not influenced by its ties with any third country.

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh made the remark in Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s bicameral parliament, while replying to a question on whether India will continue its economic relations with Iran in terms of both oil imports and investment in Chabahar port in the wake of the US sanctions against the Persian Gulf country.

The US has told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions.

The first set of US sanctions against Iran will kick in from August 6.

Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tons of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18).

“India’s bilateral relations with Iran stand on their own and are not influenced by India’s relations with any third country,” Singh said in a written reply, adding, “Government will take all necessary measures to safeguard our national interest.”

He also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016 and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to New Delhi in February.

“In keeping with understandings reached during these visits, both sides are engaged in developing a long term partnership in energy; deepening of trade and investment cooperation; and an early and full operations of Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar,” he said.

His comments came a day after a high-level delegation from the US held crucial talks with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale over the US sanctions against Iran.

On the issue of US sanctions, India has been maintaining that it will go by what is in the country’s national interest.

India and Iran held extensive talks on Monday on ways to deal with the impact of the sanctions and decided that both the countries will maintain the momentum of mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.

In May, the Trump administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and said it would reimpose economic sanctions against Tehran.

Singh said India has maintained that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through dialogue by respecting Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, according to NDTV.

He said all parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to the Iran nuclear deal.

Singh said India continues to monitor the developments and study the implications of the withdrawal of the US from the Iran deal.

In June, India’s Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that New Delhi is trying to make the strategic Chabahar port in southeastern Iran operational by 2019, adding that the opening of the port will make the nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States more accessible.

Chabahar provides India with an easier land-sea route to Afghanistan. In November, India sent its first cargo of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar in what appeared to be a run dry of a multi-modal connectivity route. The cargo was shipped from India’s western port of Kandla, unloaded at Chabahar and eventually taken to Afghanistan’s Nimroz province by trucks.

A rail link between Chabahar and Zahedan and thereon to Afghanistan is a crucial part of India’s ambitious extra-regional connectivity ambitions over which Tehran, New Delhi and Kabul have signed a basic agreement.