US decision to end Iran oil waiver is Modi’s ‘diplomatic failure’: Congress

New Delhi| The Congress on Tuesday described the US’ decision of not renewing its waiver that let countries buy Iranian oil as an “attack” on India’s political and economic sovereignty, and alleged that it is the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomatic “failure”.

The opposition party also alleged that Prime Minister Modi has directed oil companies not to increase the prices of petrol and diesel till May 23 so that he can “garner votes”.

The Trump administration on Monday decided not to renew the waiver that let countries import Iranian oil without facing US sanctions.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, at a press conference here, said the American decision to impose sanctions on all countries that buy oil from Iran or have commercial ties with that country is a “direct attack on India’s political and economic sovereignty”.

“Our demand is whether the prices increase or not is up to the oil companies but the fact is that if we don’t buy oil from Iran, prices have already crossed USD 75 dollars a barrel, they are bound to increase and that will have implications for domestic prices of oil, diesel and cooking gas.

“So, what is required today is an active diplomatic offensive on the part of the Indian government to use all diplomatic and economic weapons it has to convince the Americans that this is not in India’s interest and it is not in America’s interest,” he said.

Ramesh said that India has invested about Rs 1,600 crore in the Chabahar port and even that investment “is now in danger”.

The Congress wants that the Prime Minister should assure the country that the nation will not tolerate any attack on its sovereignty, he said.

“This is a surgical strike on us. We will not tolerate this. We will buy oil from where we deem fit,” Ramesh said.

“Mr Modi must bear full responsibility for this. Why is he silent on this? If you are a true nationalist then say that this is not possible and we will not tolerate this. We will buy oil from the place from where our government decides,” the Congress leader said.

In a swipe at Prime Minister Modi, Ramesh said he has changed “diplomacy to hugplomacy”.

“Prime Minister Modi has done diplomacy by hugging leaders and the results are there for all to see,” Ramesh said.

Earlier, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also slammed the government over the US decision.

“Crude oil prices are touching the sky — highest in six months. The Rupee has tumbled to the ground, USD 1=Rs 69.61. The US has put sanctions on import of crude oil from Iran,” Surjewala said.

India had bought 230 lakh tonne crude oil from Iran in 2018. It is easy for India to import oil from Iran because it pays in rupees instead of US dollars, he said in a series of tweets.

“We also have a 60-day credit period and free shipping facility. This, the Congress had done. The Prime Minister is a sitting as a mute spectator over the country’s oil needs and security. Why?” Surjewala asked.

He also asked whether the American curbs on importing oil from Iran were an attack on India’s sovereignty.

“Why is Modi ji, who keeps boasting about his bravery every day, silent? Modi ji is not telling the country that in order to dupe people and garner votes, he has directed oil companies not to increase the prices till May 23,” the Congress spokesperson alleged.

“There is preparation to increase the prices of petrol-diesel by Rs 5-10 on the evening of May 23. But the country will not be duped by this,” he said.

The Congress-led government had invested billions of dollars in Iran’s Chabahar port to ensure that India is connected to Afghanistan and central Asia, bypassing Pakistan, Surjewala said.

The American curbs will affect the Chabahar port and national security will be compromised, he claimed.

“The curbs on Iran have adversely impacted India’s strategic sea route and Modiji is silent. This is a diplomatic and economic failure of the Modi government. Modiji picks up your bags and leave,” Surjewala said.

US President Donald Trump has decided not to continue with the exemptions to oil customers of Iran.

In November, the US had granted a six-month waiver to India, China, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea to continue importing oil from Iran. The temporary waiver ends on May 2.

In May last year, the US had brought back sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal which was struck in 2015.

The US had told India and other countries to cut oil imports from the Gulf nation to “zero” by November 4 or face sanctions. However, Washington had granted a six-month waiver from sanctions to eight countries, including India.

India, which is the second biggest purchaser of Iranian oil after China, had agreed to restrict its monthly purchase to 1.25 million tonnes or 15 million tonnes in a year (300,000 barrels per day), down from 22.6 million tonnes (452,000 barrels per day) bought in the 2017-18 financial year.

The world’s third-biggest oil consumer, India meets more than 80 per cent of its oil needs through imports. Iran is its third largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia and meets about 10 per cent of its total needs.

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