New Delhi: Iranian Ambassador to India Ali Chegeni has called on New Delhi to resume oil imports from Tehran even as it has increased purchases of soymeal and basmati rice from India.
“India is a good friend. We are neighbours. Our history is deep-rooted,” Chegeni said Monday. “I’m hopeful India will begin (purchasing oil from Iran). India understands that these are unilateral sanctions by America and not by the UN.”
Chegeni, who was speaking at an event organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC), said New Delhi and Tehran can conduct trade through IDBI and UCO Bank.
The ambassador also said two-way trade between the countries reached almost $13 billion in 2019 but the pace slowed down as India brought its oil imports to zero owing to the threat of sanctions by the Donald Trump administration.
He, however, sounded a note of caution that if India doesn’t resume normal trading ties, Iran may have to look at other markets to source items such as soymeal and rice due to a paucity of money.
Sources meanwhile told ThePrint that a high-powered delegation headed by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is expected to visit Iran this month to discuss all issues of bilateral importance between New Delhi and Tehran. Resumption of oil trade will top Iran’s agenda.
Also read: As US-Iran tensions mount, what India can learn from the oil ‘tanker war’ in 1980s
India shying away from developing Chabahar port
Chegeni also expressed discontent over the “lack of a proactive” attitude by India in successfully transforming the Port of Shahid Beheshti in Chabahar into a major trading hub.
From December last year, India had begun using the port to ship goods to Afghanistan. “India is not able to match what China is doing at Gwadar Port (in Pakistan),” he added.
Due to this, Chegeni said, the Rouhani regime is now compelled to develop the Zahedan rail link on its own. The rail link will connect the south-eastern port city of Chabahar to Zahedan, the provincial capital of Sistan-Baluchestan region.
Iran, India and Afghanistan had signed a trilateral agreement, to develop Chabahar, in May 2016 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visits to Tehran.
Also read: US thanks ‘great friend’ India for cooperation on oil sanctions as tensions with Iran spike