January 12, The Iran Project – Turning to its traditional partners as EU tarries on bypassing US unilateral sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, accompanied by a number of top managers from the country’s public and private sectors, travelled to India on Monday (Jan. 7) for an official three days visit.
Zarif’s stay in New Delhi, the Indian capital, features participation in some events such as Iran-India trade forum, the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics dubbed “Raisina Dialogue”, which is a multilateral conference that annually attracts high-level participants from all over the world.
The top Iranian diplomat also held talks with several Indian and world officials including India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell and former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Interview with some media like NDTV was also on his intense itinerary.
Iran working with traditional partners such as China, Russia, and India
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Zarif stated that Iran is working with its traditional partners such as China, Russia, and India as the European Union struggles to find a way to circumvent a fresh US embargo on Tehran.
Brussels is working on a payment mechanism, called the special purpose vehicle (SPV), to keep financial transactions flowing with Iran after the US ditched the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran in May and reintroduced a raft of sanctions on the country.
But Zarif told reporters in New Delhi that the EU’s delay in implementing the system meant Iran would look elsewhere.
So far, the Europeans have defaulted on two deadlines which they had announced for bringing the SPV into operation.
India pays for Iranian oil in rupees
Coincided with the visit by FM Zarif, Indian refiners have begun clearing their oil debt to Iran under a new payment mechanism which they put in place after the US reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Charan Singh, executive director at state-owned UCO Bank told Reuters.
UCO Bank “received a good amount from some oil companies” which have pending payments to Iran, the bank official said. He did not disclose the names of refiners or how much had been deposited.
India is Iran’s second biggest oil customer after China. Oil accounted for about 90 percent of Indian imports from Iran, which totaled about $11 billion between April and November.
Fresh waiver from US sanctions
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for economic diplomacy Gholamreza Ansari called on India to try to get another waiver from US sanctions.
India was among the eight countries which got US waivers late last year to continue crude oil imports from Iran for six months.
In the previous round of sanctions India did not halt oil imports from Iran, said Ansari, who accompanied Zarif in India’s trip as part of a business delegation.
The official said there is also a chance for Indian companies to get development rights for Iran’s Farzad B gas field. Tehran could ease some terms associated with the project, he added.
Iran will use the money to import Indian goods and pay its diplomatic staff based in that country.
Iran, a reliable oil supplier to India
Addressing the India-Iran business forum, Zarif said that Iran is the most reliable energy provider for India and will not allow any consideration to impede the relationship between the two countries.
“No economic power can tell us you cannot have a relationship with India. This can give you confidence on the partner you are choosing,” Hindu BusinessLine quoted him as saying.
Touching upon US President Donald Trump’s hostile policies towards Iran, Zarif highlighted that the challenge facing bilateral relationships came from one single country, and more specifically one individual. The United States is asking other countries to violate a UN Security Council resolution, he regretted.
“We provide a third of urea fertilizer to India. Today Indian farmers are paying 38 percent more because of the arbitrary decision by an individual. Is this the future we want?” he asked, noting that the ‘arbitrary’ decision of a single country was already affecting economic interests.
Also speaking to the same forum, Director-General of Chabahar Free Trade Zone Organization, Abdul Rahim Kurdi, announced that more than 3,000 companies have registered their name for the business in the Free Chabahar Zone.
Giving a speech to the forum, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture said that Iran as one of the key energy players of the world can provide momentum to India’s economy, which is one of the world’s top economies.
Also during the event, Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) signed an agreement with its Indian counterpart body.
Zarif offers plans to strengthen region against West
Addressing the Raisina Dialogue multilateral conference, the Iranian foreign minister said the West does not control or even influence all significant developments anymore, offering initiatives for regional stability and collective efforts for a strong region.
In his comments, the Iranian diplomat underlined that the important events do not take place in the West anymore.
Hailing Raisina as a forum that helps promote understanding and interaction at the levels of government, the private sector and civil society, Zarif proposed plans for a strong region rather than the dominance of strongmen in the region.
The theme for the 2019 edition was: “A World Reorder: New Geometries, Fluid Partnerships, Uncertain Outcomes.”
“Iranian bank to open branch in Mumbai soon”
India’s Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said that his country has allowed an Iranian bank to open a branch in Mumbai in a bid to facilitate bilateral trade between the two countries.
“We had detailed discussions… Our meeting was very fruitful and we have resolved a lot of issues,” the Indian minister said.
He further pointed to India’s cooperation with Iran in the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar and expressed confidence that the port will reach its full function soon.
India’s independent policies on Iran
In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Vijay Kumar Singh underlined that his country adopts independent policies towards Iran which would not come under the influence of the US.
Asked about the impact of the US sanctions on the relations between Tehran and New Delhi, he said, “See, both Iran and India have to work together to find ways and means in which they can benefit each other.”
As regards India’s plans to seek more exemptions from the sanctions in future, Kumar Singh said, “What the United States does is what they want to do, but I think India and Iran can always find ways.”
“Iran, India can counter US’ illegal sanctions, bullying”
In an interview with NDTV in New Delhi, Zarif lauded ties, especially economic relations, with India, expressing confidence that Tehran and New Delhi will counter the US’ “illegal” measures, sanctions and bullying.
“We have done trade with each other for centuries, so it’s very difficult for an outside power to come and intervene in these relations … what the United States is asking is not only in violation of international law but [it is] asking others also to violate international law and Security Council resolutions,” Zarif said.