India cut on Iran oil imports not due to US pressure: Blake

Washington: US which has been asking India to cut oil imports from Iran has said that the reduction has happpened not because of its pressure but due to "financial and commercial considerations".

"Progress is being made," on India reducing its dependence on Iranian oil, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Responding to the questions from Congressmen, Blake said India is making progress in this regard not because of any pressure from the US, but because of "financial and commercial considerations".

Blake`s remarks comes against the backdrop of Indian government saying it has cut crude import target from Iran by 11 per cent to 15.5 million tonnes for this financial year.

India depends on Iran for 12 per cent of its 80 per cent of imports of crude. As a result of the US sanctions on Iran, it is becoming tough for countries to do business with Iran. Many Indian companies have pulled out of Iran because of market considerations, Blake said.

So percentage of Indian import of oil from Iran is going down, he said, adding that the United States welcomes this. Referring to the recent visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India, Blake said that she herself had welcomed the progress that India has made in reducing its dependence on Iranian oil.

During her India trip, Clinton noted that both the United States and India share the same goal on Iran to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "We continue to urge India to make progress and continue to reduce its import of oil from Iran," Blake said, responding to questions at a hearing on South Asia convened by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Sub Committee on the Middle East and South Asia.

Responding to a question, Blake conceded that the United States is assisting India in identifying alternative source of energy other than that of Iran.

In Indian case, Blake said, they have to have a long term policy of sourcing oil from Saudi Arabia. Among the recent important sources of oil is Iraq, he said.

The US had sent its top energy official Carlos Pascual to New Delhi for talks with Indian officials on the issue. The Obama administration has been exerting pressure on different countries, including India, to bring down their Iran oil imports.

Clinton, who was in India last week, stated that India needed to further reduce imports from Iran to win waiver from US sanctions. It has granted waivers to the sanctions for Japan and 10 European countries but has left out China and India, Iran`s biggest clients.