India and Iran’s Nuclear Imbroglio: Navigating the ConsequencesMiddle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 16, No. 2 (June 2012) 39that shipping companies based in Europe(London primarily) were finding it difficult toobtain insurance coverage for their operationsin light of these new measures.
Though Indian policymakers have beeninsisting that a nuclear Iran is bad for regionalstrategic stability and that such an eventualitywas not in its interests, it has not stopped itsenergy cooperation with Iran. Indianpolicymakers have been insisting that it isneither feasible nor desirable for India to cutback on Iranian oil imports drastically, giventhat it is an energy-deficient developingcountry dependent on oil imports for meetingthe majority of its energy needs. India’sCommerce Minister told reporters on March28, 2012, that India “cannot just rupture” itsties with Iran.
Despite the above compulsions, however,in continuing its energy cooperation with Iran,Indian officials have been arguing that therehas been an overall decline in imports fromIran. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,during an April 2012 visit to the United Statesto attend the meetings of the World Bank andthe International Monetary Fund (IMF), statedthat Indian imports stood at about 14 milliontons out of total imports of “roughly 160-170million tons.”
Information given by thegovernment to India’s Lower House of legislature (
) indicates that whileIndia’s imports from Iran were 13 percent of its overall energy imports during 2006-2007,they stood at about 16 percent during thefollowing three years.
India’s Upper Houseof legislature (
) was informed bythe Minister of State (MoS) for Petroleum andNatural Gas on March 20, 2012, that whileIndia imported 21.81 million metric tons(MMT) during 2008-2009, its imports during2011-2012 (April 2011-January 2012) were14.78 MMT.
India has also been robustlylooking to diversify its oil sources, as well asto increase supplies from its current supplierslike Saudi Arabia. Riyadh, for instance, willsupply 32 million tons in 2012-2013,compared to 27 million tons in 2011-2012.India’s policy choices on energy securityhave to be seen in the context of its “threepolicy determinants” of strategic autonomy,regional strategic stability, and nationalsecurity imperatives vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclearprogram.
“Strategic autonomy” in the Indianlexicon implies making decisions whilekeeping in mind its core national interests(energy security considerations in thisinstance) without being too affected byexternal pressures. Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh had earlier termed it “anarticle of faith” for India’s foreign policy.India’s three votes against Iran at theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),despite having hosted Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad in New Delhi in April2008, was viewed as another instance of India’s “strategic autonomy” at work.On March 20, 2012, the Obamaadministration exempted 11 countries(Belgium, the Czech Republic, France,Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, theNetherlands, Poland, Spain, and the UnitedKingdom) from possible U.S. sanctions on thegrounds that they had reduced their importsfrom Iran “substantially”--as per the languageof the 2012 National Defense AuthorizationAct. The United States will have to make acall on 12 other countries including India byJune 28, 2012, which source a substantial partof their oil imports from Iran.
Though Indiais not expected to apply for a sanctionsexemption, it could still qualify for such anexemption given that it has indeed reduced itsimports from Iran as a percentage of its overallimports. These reductions are especiallypertinent in the context of its galloping energyrequirements.
COMPLICATIONS IN INDIA’SBILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS
India’s Iran policy, with its strong focus onstrategic autonomy, has led to complicationsin its bilateral relationships with countriesincluding the United States and Israel to alesser extent. The Bush administration, forinstance, looked down upon India’s decisionto host Ahmadinejad in April 2008. A
cable from the U.S. Embassy inNew Delhi cited then U.S. Ambassador DavidMulford as stating that the April 2008 visit by