New Delhi: As the US piles up pressure on countries to cut oil imports from Iran by 4 November, India on Thursday said it will take all necessary steps including engagements with relevant stakeholders to ensure its energy security, even as the government has asked oil firms to start exploring alternative sources.
India's reaction to the Trump administration's warning against import of oil from Iran came on a day the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said that New Delhi should rethink its ties with Iran and that she had taken up the issue during her conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
The US has told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to "zero" by 4 November or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone.
"We have seen the statement made by the State Department official on this matter. The statement was not India-specific and applies to all countries. India will take all necessary steps, including engagement with relevant stakeholders to ensure our energy security," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Raveesh Kumar said at a media briefing.
Earlier in the day, the government and industry officials said India was looking at slashing oil imports from Iran and replacing them with more purchases from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and has asked its oil firms to prepare a blueprint of alternatives sources.
Iran is India's third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18).
Haley, who is on a three-day visit here, said India should reconsider it's relationship with Tehran in the wake of that country's violations of various UN resolutions.
"All of us have to rethink who we choose to do business with. I think as a friend India should also decide is this a country they want to continue doing business with? So, yes, I had that conversation with PM Modi," she told NDTV in an interview.
"It was a constructive conversation. I think for the future of India, future of resources, we would encourage them to rethink their relationship with Iran," she said.
Separately, in an address at a think-tank, Haley said the US would continue to try and work with its partners and allies to make sure that Iran was being pushed to be a good, accountable international neighbour.
She said the US strongly believes that Iran is a "threat" and it cannot take its eyes off the country.
"We don't believe this because of some ideas but we believe because there is proof that in spite of Iran (nuclear) deal, still with all of those incentives, they continue to violate resolution after resolution.
"Just because countries came to have deal (with Iran), doesn't mean we should be blind to these violations," she said.
The MEA spokesperson said that the statement made by US State Department talks about reducing import of oil from Iran to "zero" by 4 November and there is no talk of snapping ties in that.
Official sources indicated that the government was yet to firm up its position as extensive deliberations by several countries were going on over the US sanctions.
President Donald Trump last month announced that the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration in 2015, under which Tehran had agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allow international inspectors in return for lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Iran had struck the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal with the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany after years of negotiations.
Indo-Iran ties have also been on an upswing after Tehran sealed the nuclear deal with the international community in 2015.
Prime Minister Modi had visited Tehran in May 2016 with an aim to craft a strategic relationship with Iran and expand India's ties with West Asia.
During the visit, India and Iran signed nearly a dozen agreements, centrepiece of which was an agreement on development of Chabahar port.
In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India during which both sides agreed to further expand their cooperation in number of key sectors.
During Rouhani's visit, both sides signed nine agreements including one on handing over Chabahar port's operation to India for 18 months.
India and Iran have robust economic and commercial ties covering many sectors though it has traditionally been dominated by the import of Iranian crude oil by India.
According to the External Affairs Ministry, India-Iran bilateral trade during the fiscal year 2016-17 was $12.89 billion.
India imported $10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, and exported commodities worth $2.4 billion.
Updated Date: Jun 28, 2018 22:18 PM