Iran says remark on Chabahar port misquoted, tells India it is flexible on oil supply

Iran on Wednesday said it will continue to be a reliable energy partner for India and adopt a flexible approach to ensuring secure oil supplies. At the same time, however, a statement issued by the Iranian embassy underscored the need for India to expedite its investments and to push partner companies to accelerate the execution of projects linked to the development of the strategic Chabahar port.

The statement came a a day after Iran’s charge d’affaires Massoud Rezvanian Rahaghi was quoted as telling a seminar in New Delhi that India had not fulfilled its promise of making investments in Chabahar and that New Delhi stands to lose “privileges” if it cuts imports of Iranian oil due to pressure from the United States.

The statement clarified that Rahaghi had been misquoted and said: “Iran understands the difficulties of India in dealing with the unstable energy market and it has done and will do its best to ensure security of oil supply to India through offering various flexibility measures which facilitates our bilateral trade in particular Indian export to Iran.”

It added: “Iran has always been a reliable energy partner for India and others, seeking a balanced oil market and rational prices of oil which ensures the interests of both…consumer and supplier.”

Without referring to the Trump administration’s threat to cut Iranian oil imports to zero by November 4 or face sanctions, the statement said India is a sovereign nation that would choose energy partners on the basis of criteria such as “friendly relations with supplier countries, market factors, geopolitical and geo-economical considerations and potentials and reliability of oil suppliers”.

The statement acknowledged that Tehran has been pushing New Delhi to speed up work on Chabahar port and a related transit corridor to Afghanistan comprising rail and road links. “Iran has always welcomed Indian initiatives, however, due to the importance of the issue, Iran has frequently emphasised on expediting Indian investment, and pushing Indian partner companies to accelerate their engagement in execution of the projects,” it said.

Referring to earlier reports that Iran could do away with special privileges if India cut its oil imports, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, Talmiz Ahmad, said this appeared to be “posturing”.

“I would rather not take it seriously. This is not a decision which a diplomat can take. These are very high level decisions. I do not believe any country is going to take an aggressive posture,” he told PTI in Hyderabad.

Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The country supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018, but latest figures showed India’s oil imports had declined by 15.9% in June, the first month after the US said it would reimpose sanctions, Reuters reported citing data from shipping and industry sources.

In June, India imported 592,800 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran, compared to 705,200 bpd in May, the data showed.

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