KOLKATA: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today leaned harder on India to deepen cuts of Iranian oil imports, saying Washington may not decide whether to exempt India from financial sanctions for another two months.
Clinton, on a three-day visit to India, said the US was encouraged by the steps its ally had taken so far to reducereliance on Iranian oil but called for “more” action.
The oil issue has become an irritant in Indo-US ties. India is unwilling to be seen as bowing to US pressure and is reluctant to become too reliant on Saudi Arabia for oil, which officials say is strategically unwise.
The sanctions threaten to shut out Iranian oil importers from the US financial system unless they make significant and continuing cuts to their crude purchases by an end-June deadline.
India is Iran’s second-biggest crude customer, so it is crucial to the US strategy of choking off the Iranian economy to force Tehran to curb its nuclear programme.
“We do not believe Iran will peacefully resolve this unless the pressure continues. We need India to be part of the international effort,” Clinton told a townhall-style meeting in Kolkata.
Publicly, India has rejected Western sanctions but privately it has pushed local refiners to start cutting imports. India’s refiners signed new yearly contracts with Iran running from April 1 and imports could plunge about 25 per cent in 2012/2013.
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in April that India had already substantially cut Iranian oil imports. But Clinton’s comments suggested Washington expected more action before it would grant the sanctions waiver.
The US in March granted exemptions to Japan and 10 EU nations. India and China, Iran’s biggest crude importer, remain at risk. Clinton said, “We think India understands the importance of using diplomacy to try to resolve these difficult threats, is working.”
Pak blamed for not getting Saeed
KOLKATA: Hillary Clinton said on Monday that Pakistan had not taken action against Hafiz Saeed, the Islamist blamed for masterminding the 2008 attack on Mumbai. India has repeatedly called on Pakistan to bring Saeed to justice, an issue that has stood in the way of rebuilding relations between the two countries since the carnage in Mumbai, where gunmen killed 166 people over three days. India is furious that Pakistan has not detained Saeed since it handed over evidence against him to Islamabad. On Clinton’s authorisation, Washington has offered a reward of $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s capture. Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the 1990s, the militant group whom India blames for the Mumbai attack. He denies any wrongdoing and links to militants.