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India to remain Iran's biggest oil purchaser despite sanctions

PTI 28 Aug 2012, 23:15:46 PM IST
Tehran, Aug 28: Notwithstanding US pressure to reduce its oil dependence on Iran, India today said it will continue to remain the biggest buyer of crude oil from the sanction-hit country and its companies will find ways to work around the financial restrictions imposed on oil purchases.

“We are still the biggest buyers of oil. We will continue doing so. Companies pick and chose,” government sources said while noting that the companies had trouble with insurance which was being resolved.

They said, the companies will also analyze the impact of these sanctions on their other businesses.

Asked about the status of requests by Iranian banks to open up branches in India, the sources said this will eventually happen.

There are some technical issues which were being looked into, they said.

The remarks, ahead of the bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Iranian leadership, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, assume significance given the fact that US is pushing India and other countries to reduce their engagement with Iran in a bid to put pressure on Tehran on its controversial nuclear programme.

Though New Delhi has reduced supply of crude oil from Tehran, Iran still remains one of the biggest suppliers of oil to energy-deficient India.

Discussions on the controversial Iranian nuclear programme are also expected to figure in Singh's meetings here, with India maintaining that though Iran has a right to pursue the atomic programme for peaceful purposes, it has certain international obligations by virtue of being an NPT signatory.

“We have always maintained that every country has a right to pursue nuclear programme for peaceful purposes. However, countries are also bound by international laws,” they said, adding that earlier Tehran had refused to open up its facilities to international inspection but now the issue is under consideration.