Drop in In­dian oil im­port from Iran un­re­lated to Farzad-B: en­voy

Tehran Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­jan Golpira

TEHRAN — In a re­cent in­ter­view with the Tehran Times, In­dian am­bas­sador to Tehran Sau­rabh Ku­mar said a drop in In­dian oil im­port from Iran is not re­lated to ne­go­ti­a­tions over the is­sues sur­round­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Farzad-B gas field ex­plo­ration.

In 2008, In­dian com­pa­nies were first to dis­cover Farzad-B gas field and later made bids for the de­vel­op­ment rights of the field.

Fol­low­ing the U.S.-led sanc­tions on Iran in 2012, In­dia stopped ac­tiv­i­ties in the gas field and in May 2017 Oil Min­is­ter Bi­jan Zan­geneh an­nounced that Iran had signed a ba­sic agree­ment with Rus­sia’s en­ergy gi­ant Gazprom for the de­vel­op­ment of Farzad-B. Be­low is the text of the en­tire in­ter­view with Am­bas­sador Ku­mar.

In­dia has de­cided to re­duce oil im­port from Iran by around 16 per­cent as of last month. Some spec­u­late the de­ci­sion has fol­lowed Tehran’s re­fusal to sub­mit to New Delhi’s re­quest for ex­cep­tional con­ces­sions on the de­vel­op­ment of Iran’s gi­ant Farzad-B gas field. What has made In­dia take that road?

A: The im­port of Ira­nian crude by In­dia is de­pen­dent on sev­eral fac­tors and varies de­pend­ing on th­ese. For ex­am­ple, some­time back, In­dia was fill­ing up its strate­gic re­serves and hence, the off­take of Ira­nian crude had gone up. Sim­i­larly, there are com­mer­cial con­sid­er­a­tions which de­ter­mine the off­take of Ira­nian crude. Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures avail­able with me, In­dia im­ported over 27 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of Ira­nian crude (2016-17) which was sig­nif­i­cantly larger than in 2015-16 when the to­tal im­port was around 13.6 mil­lion met­ric tonnes. The fig­ure for the first quar­ter of this fis­cal year (2017-18) has also been en­cour­ag­ing with to­tal im­port stand­ing at 5.6 mil­lion met­ric tonnes. The im­por­tant point, how­ever, is that there are fluc­tu­a­tions based on fac­tors which I have ex­plained.

As re­gards Farzad – B, it is our hope that the two sides would con­clude a win-win con­tract, ben­e­fi­cial for both. The two sides have an un­der­stand­ing at the high­est level that we need to take our re­la­tion­ship in the hy­dro­car­bon sec­tor away from that of a “buyer and seller” to a more com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ship. Farzad – B is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of this. We would, there­fore, like to see the con­tract con­cluded.

Some an­a­lysts ar­gue In­dia is sup­port­ing Iran in­stead of the West­ern world. Your com­ments to that please.

A. As you are aware, we have a his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship with Iran. Our ties have been friendly. We are work­ing to give our re­la­tion­ship more eco­nomic con­tent. Sim­i­larly, like Iran, In­dia also has re­la­tions with the west­ern world. We do not be­lieve in zero-sum games. We would like to have co­op­er­a­tive and friendly ties with all.

With Don­ald Trump hav­ing taken of­fice in the United States, would In­dia be more cau­tious in ink­ing new con­tracts and do­ing more trade with Iran?

A. Our re­la­tions with Iran stand on their own feet. Our bi­lat­eral trade is show­ing a pos­i­tive trend and dur­ing the fis­cal year 2016-17, it was close to USD 13 bil­lion, up from around USD 9 bil­lion the year be­fore. Sim­i­larly, dur­ing the first quar­ter of the cur­rent fis­cal year (2017-18), there has been fur­ther growth of around 38%. As you are aware, a num­ber of busi­ness del­e­ga­tions have vis­ited Iran in the re­cent past and In­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion in trade and com­merce-re­lated ex­hi­bi­tions such as in the in­dus­trial sec­tor, auto com­po­nents, tex­tiles, pharma, etc. has seen a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease. The trends are, there­fore, pos­i­tive.

The Huff­in­g­ton Post com­pares Iran-In­dia re­la­tion­ship to Pak­istan and U.S. In that ar­ti­cle the au­thor says, “In many ways, Iran is to In­dia as Pak­istan is to the United States: an uneasy mar­riage with an un­sta­ble part­ner that is borne of ne­ces­sity more than af­fec­tion, which New Delhi — like Wash­ing­ton — would give up in a heart­beat if there was any real al­ter­na­tive. Would In­dia give up Iran in a heart­beat?

A. Th­ese are the views of the au­thor and he is en­ti­tled to them. The same ar­ti­cle of Huff­in­g­ton Post quotes sev­eral oth­ers who em­pha­size the im­por­tance of In­dia – Iran re­la­tions. No two re­la­tion­ships are the same. I have al­ready stated that our re­la­tion­ship with Iran is an im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship, as well as, a his­tor­i­cal one. The Prime Min­is­ter’s visit to Tehran in May last year not only fur­ther strength­ened our ties, but laid out a road map for the de­vel­op­ment of our re­la­tions.

The Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­try or CII just re­cently launched an of­fice in Tehran. What would this bu­reau mean to both coun­tries in terms of trade and com­merce?

A. The visit of the del­e­ga­tion of Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cers (CEOs) of prom­i­nent In­dian com­pa­nies un­der the um­brella of Con­fed­er­a­tion of In­dian In­dus­tries (CII) was an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment. You would re­call that CII had launched a sim­i­lar del­e­ga­tion last year and in my view, busi­ness­men re­turn­ing should be taken as a pos­i­tive sign. I am told that they had pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions dur­ing their visit. The of­fice launched dur­ing the visit is CII’s 11th in­ter­na­tional of­fice. It would help pro­mote di­rect in­ter­ac­tion be­tween busi­nesses and in­dus­tries of the two coun­tries.

Are we ex­pect­ing any po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic vis­its be­tween the two coun­tries in the cur­rent year?

A. Prime Min­is­ter had ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion to Pres­i­dent Rouhani to visit In­dia. We will be happy to see this visit take place at an early date with a sub­stan­tive agenda. In­dia–Iran Joint Com­mis­sion is also due. Meet­ings of the Joint Work­ing Groups un­der the Joint Com­mis­sion are be­ing sched­uled and we look for­ward to the Joint Com­mis­sion hav­ing its meet­ings at an early date. Our Min­is­ter of Road Trans­port and High­ways and Ship­ping Mr. Nitin Gad­kari was in Tehran rep­re­sent­ing Prime Min­is­ter at the in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony of Pres­i­dent Rouhani. He had good dis­cus­sions. Re­cently, we also had the meet­ing of the Joint Com­mit­tee on Ports and Mar­itime mat­ters which, in­ter alia, looked com­pre­hen­sively at the de­vel­op­ment of Chaba­har Port. A del­e­ga­tion of the As­so­ci­ated Cham­bers of Com­merce & In­dus­try of In­dia (AS­SOCHAM), one of the lead­ing cham­bers of com­merce, is ex­pected to visit Iran in Oc­to­ber end. We are also look­ing for­ward to par­lia­men­tary ex­changes.

What is the lat­est on Chaba­har port, In­dia’s plan for the port and when it will be­come op­er­a­tional?

A. Work on Chaba­har port is pro­gress­ing well. As I men­tioned, dur­ing Min­is­ter Gad­kari’s visit as well as dur­ing the Joint Com­mit­tee on Ports and Mar­itime mat­ters, we took a com­pre­hen­sive stock of progress. Civil con­struc­tion un­der­taken by Ira­nian side has pro­gressed very well and the process for pro­cure­ment of port equip­ment is presently un­der way. Iran is mov­ing pro­pos­als to avail the USD 150 mil­lion line of credit. We hope that the Ira­nian Ma­jlis would rat­ify the Tri­lat­eral Tran­sit Agree­ment (i.e., Chaba­har Agree­ment) at an early date. In­dia and Afghanistan have al­ready rat­i­fied this agree­ment.

Are there any new de­vel­op­ments in terms of eco­nomic re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries?

A. I have al­ready spo­ken about eco­nomic ties. An area I would like to flag is bank­ing re­la­tions. Th­ese are im­por­tant since trade and com­merce moves on th­ese. The sit­u­a­tion to­day is bet­ter than it was a year and a half ago. Apart from the ru­pee trad­ing mech­a­nism, sev­eral In­dian banks are to­day un­der­tak­ing Iran-re­lated trans­ac­tions. The sit­u­a­tion, of course, is not sat­is­fac­tory and more needs to be done. The Re­serve Bank of In­dia re­cently had a meet­ing with some Ira­nian banks which are in­ter­ested in open­ing branches / rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fices in In­dia. We would like to see this process move ahead. UCO Bank of In­dia has also opened its rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice in Tehran.

The two coun­tries are also work­ing to con­clude a Pref­er­en­tial Trade Agree­ment as well as agree­ments to avoid dou­ble tax­a­tion, and pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of in­vest­ments.

At what stage is the on and off gas pipe­line deal be­tween Iran and In­dia now?

A. To­day pipe­line is not eco­nom­i­cally very ex­cit­ing though vi­able. If you want to trans­port gas, LNG is the eco­nomic op­tion to go for. So this pipe­line re­mains where it is. It is some­thing which is not off the ta­ble but at the same time it is not some­thing that is very ac­tively be­ing pur­sued. It is a pos­si­bil­ity. But what we are look­ing at is In­dia in­vest­ing if things work out well in the Farzad-B gas field. So we are ne­go­ti­at­ing a com­mer­cial con­tract for that. Ira­nian side has told us that they would not be in­ter­ested in the gas which comes out of Farzad-B. So once the up­stream part has worked out, we would also be re­quired to look at the mid­stream and down­stream part of it, which is how to evac­u­ate the gas from Iran to In­dia. And I think what has been talked about and pos­si­bly will be talked about in this con­text is the LNG op­tion.

So di­a­logue is go­ing on be­tween the com­pa­nies. There are dif­fer­ences in terms of pric­ing of gas and in terms of other tech­ni­cal pa­ram­e­ters. But I can say based on my re­cent in­ter­ac­tion that peo­ple on your side are un­der­tak­ing the dis­cus­sion se­ri­ously and I can say on In­dia’s part also that we are very se­ri­ous about it. We would like to see this project reach its log­i­cal con­clu­sion but this would re­quire more dis­cus­sions, so that the gap which ex­ists is cov­ered by both of us.

Mr. Am­bas­sador, let’s turn to the scourge of ter­ror­ism. What can In­dia and Iran of­fer to bat­tle ex­trem­ism and ter­ror­ism?

A. Ter­ror­ism is a com­mon men­ace that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is fac­ing. And I would very strongly rec­om­mend to you, if you have not heard, our for­eign min­is­ter’s speech at the UNGA. I think it was a won­der­ful speech not just in the In­dian con­text but the way she dealt with the is­sue of ter­ror­ism over­all.

As far as our co­op­er­a­tion is con­cerned, I must tell you that we have good ex­changes with Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties in­clud­ing be­tween for­eign min­istries, be­tween the na­tional se­cu­rity coun­cils and other agen­cies.

There is good di­a­logue which is there be­tween our two coun­tries and this is not news since this is some­thing that has been go­ing on for quite some time. As far as the re­gion is con­cerned, we have said it quite openly that we value very much the views and in­sights which we get from the Ira­nian side. Be­cause you are present in the re­gion and we are not. We are part of South Asia and share our per­spec­tives of that re­gion.

The Mid­dle East re­gion is im­por­tant for us for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Apart from our his­tor­i­cal ties with the re­gion we have a big In­dian pop­u­la­tion which is spread out in the re­gion. We have a lot of en­ergy de­pen­dence on the re­gion, and con­nec­tiv­ity is very im­por­tant through the re­gion for ac­cess to Cen­tral Asia and Afghanistan. So through Chaba­har and other ports like Ban­dar Ab­bas con­nec­tiv­ity ini­tia­tives are im­por­tant in­clud­ing the North-South trans­port cor­ri­dor.

We would want the re­gion to be sta­ble and we would want the is­sues in the re­gion to be re­solved through di­a­logue and in a peace­ful man­ner. And that is what your ap­proach is. So I think this is how we look at it and to an­swer your ques­tion we have good in­ter­ac­tion and di­a­logue be­tween us and coun­tries of the re­gion in­clud­ing Iran.

A del­e­ga­tion of the As­so­ci­ated Cham­bers of Com­merce & In­dus­try of In­dia (AS­SOCHAM), one of the lead­ing cham­bers of com­merce, is ex­pected to visit Iran in Oc­to­ber end. “To­day (gas) pipe­line is not eco­nom­i­cally very ex­cit­ing though vi­able. If you want to trans­port gas, LNG is the eco­nomic op­tion to go for.” “The two coun­tries (Iran and In­dia) are also work­ing to con­clude a Pref­er­en­tial Trade Agree­ment, as well as, agree­ments to avoid dou­ble tax­a­tion, and pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of in­vest­ments.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iran

© PressReader. All rights reserved.