New Delhi: Unfazed by
US sanctions and Israel linking Tehran to the attack on an Israeli
embassy car here, India is set to ramp up its energy and business
ties with Iran, with a commerce ministry team heading to Tehran to
explore fresh business opportunities.
The team is expected to go to Tehran later this month to discuss
steps to expand India's trade with Iran, part of a larger strategy
to pay for Iranian oil, said highly-placed sources.
Despite the US and European Union sanctions on Iran, India
recently sealed a payment mechanism under which Indian companies
will pay for 45 percent of their crude oil imports from Iran in
Not just oil, India is also stepping up the refurbishing of the
Chabahar Port in Iran and a strategic railway link that will offer
it direct access to Afghanistan and the energy-rich Central Asia.
In recent years, India has taken care to insulate its
multi-faceted ties with Iran from the West's collision with Tehran
over its nuclear programme. The West accuses Iran of developing
India is uneasy at Israeli accusations about Iran's hand in the
Monday bombing that targeted an Israeli embassy car, badly
injuring the wife of the Israeli defence attache.
India, the sources said, does not want to be drawn into a
diplomatic war of words between Tehran and Tel Aviv. Iran has
rubbished Israeli charges as "empty lies".
But with Israel launching a diplomatic offensive and the American
Jewish Congress (AJC) asking India to scale down its engagement
with Iran, New Delhi could come under renewed pressure from the
West to cut off ties with what the Americans say is a rogue
India has launched a probe into the terror attack. "The probe is
on," is all Indian officials would say.
K.C. Singh, a former Indian ambassador to Iran, told IANS:
"Anything is possible. We have to wait and watch."
Ajai Sahni, a terrorism expert, said it was very unlikely that the
attack would ever be traced to the Iranian state.
But he agreed that India could be under extra pressure as Israel
may leverage the incident to portray Iran as a rogue regime.
The American Jewish Congress has told Indian ambassador to the US
Nirupama Rao that it was "deeply troubled" by India's efforts to
intensify trade relations with Iran "at the very moment when the
US and fellow democracies are applying new economic pressures" on
India continues to buy Iranian oil and expand economic relations
Iran used to supply 12 percent of India's oil imports, but for
some time its share has dropped to 10 percent.
Last week, as the European Union asked India to broker talks with
Tehran over its atomic programme, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
pitched for a resolution of the issue by giving "maximum scope" to
(Manish Chand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)