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New Delhi, May 01, 2019: The United States government’s decision to not renew waivers for oil imports from Iran will have negative consequences for India, with the Narendra Modi government now having to secure an alternative fuel supply while dealing with the consequences of higher prices.

Officially, India is yet to react to the Trump administration’s move, with sources stating that they were still studying the implications of the decision.

Media reports quoting unidentified sources however indicated that New Delhi had lined up alternate sources to purchase crude oil from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mexico.

On Monday morning, the White House announced that Trump had decided not to renew the oil waivers, known as “Significant Reduction Exceptions”, given to China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. This would mean that US will start imposing sanctions against countries which continued to import oil from Iran after the expiry of the waiver on May 2.

“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” said the White House statement .

US claimed that it has agreement with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates to take “timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market”.

Trump also tweed that “Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC” will “more than make up” for the removal of Iranian crude from the market. He then proceeded to take a swipe at former secretary of state John Kerry, who had been one of the architects of the Iran nuclear deal.

US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo added that “Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime means maximum pressure”.

“The global oil market remains well-supplied. We’re confident it will remain stable as jurisdictions transition away from Iranian crude,” he added.

India is the world’s third-biggest oil consumer and meets more than 80% of its oil needs through imports. Iran in 2017-18 was its third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10% of total needs.

In New Delhi, there was no official response yet, with sources stating a detailed statement would be issued later “We have seen the announcement by the US Secretary of State. We are studying the implications of the decision and will make a statement at an appropriate time,” official sources stated.

For India, this move comes at an inopportune time, with the Lok Sabha elections underway.

The price of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose as much as 3.3 per cent to $74.31 a barrel on Monday, the highest intra-day level in almost six months. The rise in global oil prices will have a cascading effect on New Delhi’s oil imports and its subsidy bill.

Since 2014, the fall in worldwide fuel prices has allowed the Narendra Modi government to perform well on the fiscal deficit front. This performance, analysts say, could now very well unravel if oil prices don’t settle.

When Trump first pulled out of the nuclear deal, oil shot up to over $85 a barrel and it fell to near $50 after the US administration unexpectedly granted the waivers.

US sanctions on Iran’s oil buyers snap back next month that will block the US financial system for importers according to the reports published in thewire.in.

Global oil politics

After the White House declaration, Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said that the Riyadh was monitoring the impact on global oil market. “Accordingly, Saudi Arabia will coordinate with fellow oil producers to ensure adequate supplies are available to consumers while ensuring the global oil market does not go out of balance,” he said

India, along with China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey, had been given waivers in November 2018 after US re-imposed all sanctions on Iran’s oil imports that had been lifted after the Iran nuclear deal. While Taiwan, Italy and Greece ended their oil imports and never used the waivers, the other five continued to among Tehran’s top customers.

Since then, India had been negotiating with US with an expectation to obtain another extension on the waiver.

“The waiver lapses on May 4, let’s wait and see what happens, but I think the important thing is that we will continue our engagement to see if we are taking care of our energy security but the important thing is that the discussions and the engagement should continue and which is continuing between India and US,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on April 5 .

India had got an additional exemption from US for the development of Iran’s strategic Chahabar port , construction of a railway line to Afghan border and the shipment of non-sanctionable goods for use in Afghanistan. Indian and US officials have not yet clarified if this exemption still holds. Earlier, US officials had said that the waiver on Chabahar port development did not have a time limit.

The US’s move to end waivers on Iran oil imports is part of its scale-up campaign against Iran. Earlier this month, US had designated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

When the US Congress had first imposed sanctions on Iranian oil imports in 2011, Tehran was exporting around 320,000 barrels of crude per day to India. After India decreased imports by 18 percent, it received a waiver.

After the removal of sanctions in 2016, India’s import of Iranian crude oil jumped and reached more than 450,000 barrels per day in 2017-18.

After the re-imposition of sanctions, Indian imports of Iranian crude declined to around 300,000 barrels per day.

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