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US not expecting India to curb Iran oil like Japan?

April 16, 2012 13:40 IST

Japan is unlikely to be the "benchmark" for India when the Obama administration initiates the process of deciding the fate of Iranian sanctions on dozen countries, which according to a US legislation need to "significantly" reduce their dependence on oil from Iran.

"It's Apple and Oranges," a source familiar with the thinking of the Obama administration on the issue said when asked if India should reduce its oil dependence on Iran by at least 15 per cent, as was done by Japan.

Japan was one of the 11 countries that included mostly those from Europe which were exempted by the US from its Iranian sanctions legislations as it determined that these countries have "significantly" reduced their dependence on Iranian oil.

India and Japan can't be put in the same boat, both fall in different categories, the sources said, adding that the parameters set for Japan's "significant" reduction could not be the same for India.

Japan made a commendable reduction -- of 15 to 22 per cent -- in its oil purchase from Iran despite being hit by the tsunami and its nuclear reactors being badly damaged.

Officials last month had told reporters that this could be a benchmark for other countries.

But now those familiar with the process and given the series of talks between the two countries since then, Japan is unlikely to be the barometer for India, sources said.

In case of New Delhi, Washington would definitely be considering India's galloping energy needs, which are necessary to meet the demands of 1.2 billion people and the availability of alternate source of energy.

Also India's important developmental role in Afghanistan, for which it has to rely on Iran, especially for its supply route, is also expected to be a factor, before the US makes a decision on India with regard to Iranian sanctions.

Administration sources familiar with the process told PTI that the two countries are having a series of discussions on this issue.

However, the final decision on this would be taken by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself, sources confirmed.

The US has time till end of June to make a determination in this regard.

"With respect to India, they are making steps that are heading in the right direction. In fact, I think in a number of instances, the actions of countries and their banks are better than the public statements that we sometimes hear them making," Clinton told lawmakers at a recent Congressional hearing.

"India since late 2010, suggest that it is now cautious about any expansion of energy relations with Iran," the independent Congressional Research Service said in its recent report on Iran.

As compared 16.4 per cent of its total oil imports coming from Iran in 2008-2009, in 2011-12, it came down to 10.3 per cent. But India faces the problem of further reduction as some of its refineries have been built to run solely on Iranian crude.

Sources said they are well aware of the fact that many of these refineries would have to be retrofitted in order to process oil from other countries and this is not something that can be done in a day.

At the same time, the US would be looking for some kind of commitment from India in this regard and as a country which is seen as defying the US-viewpoint on Iran.

In a breakfast meeting with American journalist organized by Christian Science Monitor, Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said there is a degree of understanding between the two countries.

"The share of Iranian imports in our total volume of petroleum imports is going down as we speak, and there has been a significant reduction. I see that reduction being even more reinforced in the weeks and months to come," Rao said.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman in her recent trip to India had said that US will never seek to undermine India's energy security.

"We do not and never seek to undermine India's energy security. India's partnership and willingness to press Iran in whatever ways are appropriate for India to fulfill its international obligations, that's Iran's international obligations, is essential for international efforts to be successful," Sherman said in her remarks at the American Center in New Delhi early this month.

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