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India seeks de-escalation in Persian Gulf

New Delhi: A concerned India wants de-escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, amid indications that Indian companies have stopped import of oil from Iran for the “time being” after the US lifted the waiver on sanctions last month.

The issue, along with cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan and bilateral aspects of the Indo-US relations, is expected to figure in the talks that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will have with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar here on Wednesday, marking the first high-level engagement in the Modi government’s second term.

Pompeo will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday.

During the visit, the two sides will review the overall bilateral relationship and decide on the future course of action over the next five years, diplomatic sources said here on Tuesday.

It will particularly set the stage for the meeting between Modi and US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of G-20 Summit in Osaka in Japan later this week.

Regarding the talks that Jaishankar and Pompeo will have, the diplomatic sources said the growing tensions in the Persian Gulf would figure in the discussions.

The sources said the developing situation there is a “matter of great concern” to India, considering its interests in the region, including the large diaspora present there.

India wants de-escalation and it will be conveyed to the US Secretary of State, the sources said.

“We have a strong interest in maintaining stability in the region. We hope the US will understand,” they said.

The sources said India is also in touch with Iran in the context of its efforts to ensure de-escalation.

Tensions have been building in the Persian Gulf region over the recent weeks and the US was on the verge of conducting military action against Iran a few days back.

After withdrawing the military action, the Trump administration on Monday imposed fresh sanctions targeted at Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his military aides, a decision Iran described as “end of diplomacy” between the two countries.

With respect to the lifting of waiver by the US to Indian companies importing oil from Iran, which came into effect from May, the sources said buying petroleum products is a commercial decision by the firms.

They said the Indian companies have decided not to import oil from Iran for the time being.

On Chahbahar port in Iran, which is being built with Indian assistance, the sources said the companies engaged in the construction have already been given a waiver by the US administration.

“The US understands the strategic importance of the project,” the sources said.

But sometimes the companies adopt extra caution, they said, while explaining why the work is making slow progress.

For this, the US administration should make it clear that the project is not sanctioned, the sources said.

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