India has slashed import of crude oil from Iran by over 26.5 per cent in the financial year ended March 31 as US and European sanctions made it difficult to ship oil from the Persian Gulf nation.
The nation imported about 13.3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2012-13 fiscal, down from 18.1 million tones shipped in the previous financial year, official sources said.
The decline in shipments to the world's fourth-largest oil importer was sharper than by Iran's other two big buyers, China and South Korea, as New Delhi struggled with insurance and payment problems.
The US and EU have shut down the use of their financial systems for Iranian crude trade, and Washington recently imposed more treasury sanctions on trade with Iran - making imports from the Islamic nation even more difficult - in the hope of starving Tehran of cash that would force it to give up its nuclear programme.
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. While India can't deposit dollars or euros in any foreign bank for importing crude from Iran because of the sanctions, insurance companies are refusing to cover refineries that use oil from the Persian Gulf nation.
Sources said in 2012-13, Iran has slipped three places to become India's sixth-largest crude oil supplier.
Iran, which was India's second biggest supplier of crude oil after Saudi Arabia in 2010-11, supplied 133 million tones during 2012-13. The supplies from Iran were behind Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait and UAE.
India had in 2011-12 relegated Iran to the third spot with 18.1 million tonnes of imports. These were behind 32.5 million tonnes from Saudi Arabia and 24.1 million tonnes from Iraq.
Iran had in 2009-10 supplied 21.2 million tonnes, which came down to 18.5 million tonnes in 2010-11 and to 18.1 million tonnes in the year after.
During 2012-13, Iranian supplies made up for 7.2 per cent of the India's oil imports, down from 10.5 per cent in the previous fiscal (2011-12).
India, which relies on import for 79 per cent of its oil needs, bought a total of 182.5 million tonnes crude in 2012-13. It had in the previous fiscal imported 171.7 million tonnes of crude oil, up from 163.4 million tonnes in 2010-11 and 159.2 million tonnes of 2009-10.