External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently met Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi to discuss the supply of crude oil along with other diplomatic issues. Before the India visit, Zarif had already toured China, Russia, Turkmenistan and Iraq. Zarif’s visit takes place in the wake of escalating tension between Washington and Tehran and the ongoing crisis in the Persian Gulf region.
Significance of Javad Zarif’s visit to India
Zarif is known as a skilled diplomat and was the main person behind the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations between P-5+1 countries- the US, UK, China, France, Russia and Germany- and Iran. It was Zarif s own initiative to inform New Delhi about details pertaining to developments on JCPOA as well as in the region. From the oil import perspective, US has reimposed sanctions on Iran after four years. Earlier the US extended an exemption to New Delhi on importing oil from Iran but that has been stopped from May 1. During this diplomatic visit, Zarif was eyeing support from major countries including China, Russia and India. The purpose of the visit was to seek favour from Indian and at the same time strengthen bilateral economic interests.
India has categorically told Tehran that any decision on importing oil from Iran will be taken after the new government is formed post the Lok Sabha election results on May 23. It has also said that several factors including commercial consideration, economic interests and energy security will play a pivotal role. After the meeting, Zarif tweeted saying Tehran would remain the most efficient, accessible, secure and sustainable partner. India has clarified that it would like all parties to the JCPOA agreement to resolve all issues amicably, peacefully and through dialogue and discussions.
Amidst the growing tension between Iran and US, Washington has deployed USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Central Command region. While New Delhi has been tracking the development in the West Asian region closely, any sort of skirmish would worry India. Over 80 lakh migrant workers from across India reside in that region.
Why Iran is important?
For India, Iran is the 3rd largest crude oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. India purchased 11 million tonnes in 2013-14, 10.95 million tonnes in 2014-15, 12.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 and 27.2 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2016-17. From April 2018 to January 2019, India imported petroleum oil and crude oil worth $97 billion. Out of this, petroleum oil worth $10.9 billion was purchased from Iran.