Indian delegation to visit Iran to talk oil payment mechanism
India is sending a delegation to Iran to discuss a mechanism for New Delhi's payments of crude oil imports from the Islamic Republic, Press TV reported.
India's Oil Secretary Vivek Rae said on Nov. 27 that the delegation, which includes representatives from the Oil Ministry, oil companies, refiners and the Finance Ministry, will visit Iran in the near future.
India was paying for 45 percent of its purchases of Iranian crude in euros until February with the money going through Ankara-based Turkish Halkbank because of the European Union sanctions against Tehran. Since then Indian crude oil importers have held on to their payments.
Iran explored taking payments in Russian rouble and other currencies, but the routes could not be finalized. After the rupee transactions were left as the only alternative, the UCO Bank has been designated as the only Indian institution under the rupee-payment mechanism with Iran.
"We probably imported $5 billion worth of crude oil from Iran. Of this, we may have to pay $2-2.5 billion to the Iranian oil companies,'' Rae said.
The Indian official also said that New Delhi would increase crude oil imports from Iran in the current fiscal year if the economic sanctions against Tehran eased following the recently-brokered deal between Iran and six major world powers.
In India, the government's financial year runs from April 1 to March 31.
"We were importing 21 million tons of oil from Iran ... If the sanctions get resolved, we can go back to 21 million tons,'' Rae said.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - plus Germany sealed an interim deal on November 24 to pave the way for the full resolution of the West's decade-old dispute with Iran over the country's nuclear energy program.
In exchange for Iran agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the United States and its allies have undertaken to lift some of the existing sanctions against Iran.
India is among Asia's major importers of energy and relies on Iran to meet a portion of its energy demands. Iran was the second-largest supplier of India's crude before the unilateral sanctions were imposed on Tehran about two years ago.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
Michael Mann, the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said on Monday that the bloc could lift some sanctions against Iran in December or January as part of the Geneva deal.