With the US imposing new sanctions on Tehran, New Delhi is keeping “all options open" on approaching the US for waivers on ground that India imports around 12 per cent of its oil from Iran and the Iranian oil is crucial for its energy security.
"All options are open. We are exploring all options," a government source said here Saturday to queries whether India approached the US for waivers after it imposed fresh sanctions against financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank.
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon is understood to have met Peter Burleigh, the US acting ambassador in New Delhi, Friday and discussed the issue of sanctions against Iran and India's need to procure Iranian oil.
India will be pressing the US for waivers that could minimise the impact of sanctions and that may be given to other key importers of Iranian oil like Japan, Turkey and South Korea.
The issue will be discussed with top US officials when Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai travels to Washington soon.
The US has, however, mounted a diplomatic offensive to get key players and importers of Iranian oil like India, China and Russia to implement sanctions against Iran.
"We are in close consultation with India, with China, with Russia, with countries around the world, about strengthening their implementation of the international sanctions regime and about curtailing their dependence on Iranian crude oil," Victoria Nuland, State Department spokesperson, told reporters in Washington.
India has made it clear that it will abide by the UN sanctions on Iran, but has contended that unilateral sanctions by some countries (a reference to the US) affect the market and hurts its genuine interests of energy security.
Sources said all options are on the table to keep access to Iranian oil open, and India is hard at work to resolve the issue of payment for the Iranian oil. Among other things under discussion is a plan to persuade Tehran to accept payment in Indian rupees.
India has been in a fix for the last one year on finding a viable mechanism to pay for Iranian oil after the Reserve Bank of India scrapped the Asian Clearing Union, which served as a clearing house for trading with Iran. For some time, India routed its payments through a German bank and later a Turkish bank, but the US sanctions have made these options unviable.
China has rejected the US sanctions against Iran and made it clear it will continue to buy Iranian oil.
Apart from its energy needs, India is also determined to keep importing Iranian oil as it does not want to lose influence with Tehran, an important regional player with which it is trying to keep its ties on an even keel.