‘Trade, Chabahar port work hit’
India’s decision to shut down oil imports from Iran due to sanctions imposed by the United States is also hurting India-Iran bilateral trade and India’s future in Chabahar port, said Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni.
In the first public comments about the government’s decision to fall in line with U.S. sanctions and “zero out” oil purchases after May 2 this year, the Ambassador said India had “fought hard for its independence” and should not have given in to “unilateral sanctions” from the U.S.
“It is now official that India has stopped importing oil from Iran because of what it says is its own national interest,” Mr. Chegeni told members of the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents on Monday.
“If there are no oil payments due from India, how we can buy from India? This is India’s sovereign decision, but others have chosen differently,” he added, referring to China, Russia, and Turkey, who have kept up their energy engagement with Iran.
Of greater possible concern for New Delhi was the Iranian Ambassador’s outlook for the Chabahar port, where India’s construction of the Shahid Beheshti terminal since 2016 is a key component of its trade and connectivity routes to Afghanistan and Central Asia, circumventing Pakistan.
Despite the U.S. sanctions waiver for Chabahar, Mr. Chegeni said that India’s development work had been “very slow”, and that trade to Afghanistan was “much lower” than it should be.
He also said that in view of the delay over India’s plans to build a railway line connecting Chabahar port to the Afghan border at Zahedan, the Iranian government had decided to complete the railroad through its own resources by 2021. In addition, Iran is now discussing an LNG pipeline to China along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as India is not expected to retain its prior interest in LNG imports from Iran.
“If India wants energy security, it should prefer Iran as a dependable supplier,” said Mr. Chegeni. “We love the Indian people. But we cannot force somebody to love us. The Government of India has to decide according to its national interest. Just as the Chinese have,” he added.