|India says it's free to decide on Iran oil imports||
India is 'free to take its decisions' on importing oil from Iran despite economic sanctions by the U.S. against Tehran, Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy said on Thursday.
"We respect the UN sanctions against any country," Reddy told the Lok Sabha, adding that embargoes by other countries were not binding on the nation.
He was asked by Communist Part of India-Marxist leader Basudeb Acharia if Indian oil companies had reduced crude imports from Iran since 2011.
To this Reddy replied: "We are importing oil from Iran. There could be less oil, more oil depending on requirements. It is for the (oil) company to decide. These things are not monitored by the government."
He said oil companies decide on the volume of crude imports 'keeping in view various developments'.
Iran is India's second largest oil supplier. But the U.S. has been rallying for reduction of crude imports to force the Islamic republic to stop its peaceful nuclear program.
The minister said India's sovereignty was 'supreme' and 'we will never ever allow it to be affected in any manner'.
Earlier on Tuesday, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said that Iran is a key country for India’s energy needs.
Resisting U.S. pressure to further scale down oil imports from sanction-hit Iran, India made it clear that it has to look at the issue involved beyond the energy trade as it has "vital" security stakes in the Persian Gulf region.
After talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during which she asked India to restrict its trade and energy ties with Tehran, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said, "I conveyed our vital stakes in peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and wider West Asian region, given the six million Indians who live there and the region’s importance to our economy."
Clinton has been pressing India to "do more" to scale down its oil imports from Iran to keep pressure on Tehran.
Addressing a joint press interaction, Krishna said, "Iran is a key country for our energy needs but we have to look at the Iran issue beyond the issue of energy trade. In the first place, we have to see security and stability in the Persian Gulf region, India has vital stakes in Persian Gulf region.”
"It is one of the critical destinations for our external trade," he said, while noting that India's exports to that region were about $100 billion and oil imports stood at 60 percent.
India has been asking Tehran to abide by its international obligations as a non-nuclear weapons state under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but has maintained that it has a right to pursue nuclear activities for peaceful purposes.
"We also discussed the importance of peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, based on the position that Iran has rights as a member of NPT," Krishna said.
The Indian external affairs minister also noted that "the issue (Iran) was not a source of discord" between the U.S. and India.
---Iran reliable energy, economic partner for India’
India’s Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed has lauded trade relations with Iran, describing Tehran as a reliable partner for New Delhi in the economic and energy sectors.
The Indian official made the remarks during a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ministerial meeting in Egypt on Thursday.
During the meeting, Salehi and Ahmed discussed the latest regional and international developments and reviewed bilateral relations in various areas.
The Indian official further said that Tehran-New Delhi cooperation in the energy sector is highly significant and to the benefit of the two countries as well as regional states.
He also referred to the common cultural interests between the two countries and said Iran-India relations are moving well ahead in all political, economic, cultural, industrial and energy areas.
Salehi, for his part, said the bilateral relations and cooperation between Iran and India are moving forward on the right track.
He described ‘the strong’ determination of the two states as the key factor in the further expansion of mutual cooperation, based on common heritage and roots.
Referring to the upcoming joint commission of the two countries, Iran’s top diplomat said the body could provide a suitable framework for regulating comprehensive cooperation, in particular, with respect to energy.
He also underlined the need for multilateral and regional cooperation, especially in the field of transit and transportation within the framework of communication corridors in the region.
Salehi arrived in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh Tuesday night to attend a two-day ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which started on Wednesday.
The Coordinating Bureau ministerial meeting is a preparation for the NAM summit to be later held in Iran late August.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Salehi also held talks with his counterparts from different countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, North Korea and Yemen. Salehi returned to Iran on Thursday night.
NAM, an international organization with 120 member states, is considered as not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. It represents nearly two-thirds of the UN members.
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