NEW DELHI: India said Tuesday it shared the United States’ goal of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon, but insisted the Islamic republic remained an “important source of oil”.
Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged India to reduce its imports of Iranian oil, while a new US law will next month slap sanctions on nations that buy oil from Tehran.
India, which depended on Iran for 12% of its imports last year, says it has cut Iranian imports substantially despite initially insisting it would not join US and European-led efforts to choke off Tehran’s oil revenues.
“We have a strong interest in a peaceful and negotiated settlement of issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme,” Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna told a joint news conference with Clinton.
Krishna acknowledged that Iran “remains an important source of oil for us” and said of the reductions: “Ultimately, it reflects the decision that refineries make based on commercial, financial and technical considerations.”
“This issue is not a source of discord between our two countries,” he insisted.
India, which is heavily dependent on energy imports, remains the largest single buyer of Iranian oil.
Clinton commended India for reducing imports of Iranian oil and said that the United States was discussing with India how to find alternative sources for energy needs.
“The United States and India share the same goal: we both want to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Clinton said, calling India a “strong partner”.
Clinton said that Carlos Pascual, the US point man on Iranian oil, would visit India next week for follow-up talks.
Under a new law, the United States will impose sanctions starting on June 28 on banks from countries that keep buying Iranian oil. The State Department has already exempted European Union nations and Japan.