'India Resisted Pressure on Russia, Should Also Resist West and Buy Iran Oil': Envoy

'India is not Taiwan. India is not South Korea…India could easily, easily resist the West as it has resisted it over buying oil from Russia,' asserted Iraj Elahi at a media briefing at his embassy. 

New Delhi: India should restart imports of oil from Iran by resisting the West, just as New Delhi has defied pressure against purchasing Russian crude, Iran’s ambassador to India Iraj Elahi said on Friday, March 17.

“India is not Taiwan. India is not South Korea…India could easily easily resist against the West as it has resisted over buying oil from Russia,” asserted the Iranian diplomat at a media briefing at his embassy. 

India has not imported crude from Iran for the last four years after the United States did not renew its temporary waiver policy for some countries avoid sanctions. A year before stopping its purchases, India was importing as much as 480,000 barrels per day.

“We hope that India will start importing oil (from Iran),” said Elahi.

The comparison to South Korea was due to Tehran’s strained relations over frozen Iranian funds in South Korean banks and Tehran holding back a Korean tanker in 2021. This year, Iran took umbrage over South Korean president Yoon Seokyeol comparing Iran’s relation to United Arab Emirates with that of South Korea’s rivalry with North Korea.

The Iranian diplomat stated that Iran did understand that most of the Indian firms importing oil were private firms who can’t be dictated by New Delhi on commercial decisions. “The Indian government can’t tell them to buy oil from this country or that country”.

However, he claimed that the private Indian firms “are very conservative” and “really concerned about the risk of buying Iranian oil”. 

Urging a return of India to the Iranian oil market, he urged “India was and is a strong and powerful country which can stand against the pressure of the west”.

Calling for the revival of the payment mechanism via UCO bank, Elahi said that India produces “everything that Iran needs”.

He also indicated that India has not been able to utilise the Chabahar port in terms of investment and transit of cargo. “And a few equipment has been installed by India in Chabahar, but they are not operative. Hope that in the close future, a long term contract between India and Iran will be signed”.

The Iranian diplomat admitted that Iran had not been able to connect the port to the domestic railway network. “We believe that the Indian government has a positive approach towards Iran and Chabahar. Of course, there are shortcomings from both sides”.

With the press conference organised against the backdrop of the recent rapprochement brokered by China, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, he was upbeat that India could benefit from the sense of optimism in the region.

“I think it should not be a concern for India. It would be of benefit to India since it would help and intensify the stability and peace in the Persian Gulf region,” Elahi said. He was answering a question on whether India is concerned about China’s role in the agreement.

Chabahar. Credit: Beluchistan/Flickr CC 2.0

To another query, he noted that India had not offered to act as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “…[A]t least no one approached and talked about this issue with Iran. No one from India expressed willingness to bridge with Saudi Arabia. If it was mentioned before, we would have welcomed this”.

India has given a cautious response to the Iran-Saudi deal, stating that New Delhi has always advocated for dialogue and diplomacy in resolving differences. 

Last month, Iran allowed Taliban-appointed diplomats to take over the Afghan embassy in Tehran. The Iranian envoy claimed that it was precipitated by the need to provide basic services, like issuing passports, for the five million Afghan nationals who had fled Afghanistan.

“The embassy in Iran was not being supported by the foreign ministry in Afghanistan. We paid attention to the reality,” said Elahi.

However, he denied that it was a recognition of the Taliban regime, adding that there were conditions imposed on the takeover. “The flag on top of the embassy is not allowed to be changed”.

Elahi stated that India doesn’t need to go on the same path as Iran vis-à-vis engagement with Taliban as New Delhi doesn’t face the same pressures about borders and refugees. “You do not have our problems”.