The US has issued an ultimatum to all countries, including India, to stop all oil imports from Iran by November. It was expected that the US would make some exemptions for Indian companies. But the latest order has put all hopes in vain as it ruled out any exemption to India from its reimposed Iranian sanctions regime for them carrying out any transaction with Iran.
“On China and India, yes, certainly,” a state department official told reporters when asked if the US has told all countries, including India and China, to stop all their imports of Iranian oil by November 4.
“Their (India and China) companies will be subject to the same sanctions that everybody else’s is if they engage in those sectors of the economy that are sanctionable, where there were sanctions imposed prior to 2015. And yes, we will certainly be requesting that their oil imports go to zero. Without question,” the state department official said on condition of anonymity.
The official said this is part of the Trump administration’s effort to isolate streams of Iranian funding and are looking to highlight the totality of Iran’s malign behavior across the region.
“We remain engaged with the EU-3 throughout this process, and we are going to continue to branch out in new countries and reach new partners as the weeks go forward,” the official said.
As such, this could emerge as a major topic of discussion between India and the US during the first 2+2 dialogue next week. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman would be in the US next week for talks with their American counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.
The State Department asserted that there would be no waivers under the new sanctions regime. “I would be hesitant to say ‘zero waivers ever’. I think the predisposition would be, ‘No, we’re not granting waivers’,” the official said.
Noting that America’s allies are aware of its concern, the official claimed these countries want to work with the US. “I don’t want to get into the substance of each discussion I’ve had, but, for a vast majority of countries, they are willing to adhere and support our approach to this because they also view it as a threat. And it’s gotten worse since 2015, not better, on their regional activity side,” the official said.
In a recent report, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) said as international sanctions on Iran increased in 2010-2013, India sought to preserve its longstanding ties with Iran while cooperating with the sanctions regime.
In 2010, the Reserve Bank of India ceased using a Tehran-based regional body, the Asian Clearing Union, to handle transactions with Iran. In January 2012, Iran agreed to accept India’s local currency, the rupee, to settle nearly half of its sales to India.