India is likely to resist the American
pressure on complying with the reimposed Iranian sanctions as it has been a
traditional policy of New Delhi to enforce only UNSC-authorised sanctions, a
Congressional report has told lawmakers.
The Trump administration has threatened entities and countries with
consequences if they do not bring down their import of Iranian oil to zero by
India, one of the biggest importers of Iranian
oil, is unlikely to do so given its huge energy needs. The Trump administration
is currently in talks with India on issues related to Iranian sanctions.
"India's position has generally been that
it will only enforce sanctions authorised by UN Security Council resolutions,
rendering it likely that India will resist US efforts to compel it to comply
with reimposed US sanctions such as those that mandate cuts in oil purchases
from Iran," the independent Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in
its latest report on Iran.
In its report meant for US lawmakers to take
informed decision, the CRS said India and Iran have overlapping histories and
civilisations, and they are aligned on several strategic issues.
Tens of millions of India's citizens are Shiite
Muslims. Both countries have historically supported minority factions in Afghanistan
that are generally at odds with Afghanistan's dominant Pashtun community, said
the report dated September 11.
According to the CRS, as international sanctions
on Iran increased in 2010-2013, India sought to preserve its longstanding ties
with Iran while cooperating with the sanctions regime.
In 2010, India's central bank ceased using a
Tehran-based regional body, the Asian Clearing Union, to handle transactions
with Iran. In January 2012, Iran agreed to accept India's local currency, the
rupee, to settle nearly half of its sales to India, it said.
During 2011-2015, India reduced its purchases of
Iranian oil, at some cost to its own development, in order to receive from the
US administration exemptions from sanctions, the CRS said.
India has increased oil purchases from Iran to
nearly pre-2012 levels after sanctions were lifted, and in May 2016 India
agreed to transfer to Iran about $6.5 billion that it owed for Iranian oil
shipments but which was held up for payment due to sanctions, it said.
The CRS said some projects that India has
pursued in Iran involve not only economic issues but national strategy.
"India has long sought to develop Iran's
Chabahar port, which would give India direct access to Afghanistan and Central
Asia without relying on transit routes through Pakistan," the report said.
Noting that India had hesitated to move forward
on that project because of US opposition to projects that benefit Iran, the CRS
said. India has said that the implementation of Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA) sanctions relief in January 2016 paved the way for work to begin
in earnest on the Chabahar project.
India, Iran and Afghanistan held a ceremony in
May 2016 to herald the start of work on the port based on an Indian pledge of
$500 million investment in it, with Iran to provide the remaining $500 million.
Work was slowed by the difficulty equipment
suppliers had in obtaining financing for the project, a consequence of
hesitancy among banks about whether the US might still try to sanction the
The CRS report said that during a visit to India
in June 2018, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the Trump administration
might consider providing exemptions to US sanctions to enable the Chabahar work
to continue because the project is vital to Afghanistan's development and
reducing its dependence on Pakistan.
India has already begun shipping wheat to
Afghanistan through this new port. During Iran President Hassan Rouhani's visit
to India in February 2018, he and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed
memoranda outlining future expanded energy cooperation, the report added.
The US, which is renewing sanctions on Iran,
reimposed some of the financial sanctions from August 6, while those affecting
Iran's petroleum sector will come into effect from November 4.