The relations between India and Iran, a country with whom India has had close ties both in the distant past and in modern times, are coming under increasing pressure from the US imperialist-led offensive against Iran. This was seen when India voted with the US and other imperialists against Iran in the deliberations of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program. This is also seen in the sharp cut in India’s crude oil imports from Iran from 18.5 million tonnes in 2010-11 to the expected 15.5 million tonnes in the current fiscal year.
In July, India-Iran economic ties underwent further damage on account of the US-led sanctions against Iran. The Irano Hind Shipping Co., jointly owned by the Shipping Corp. of India (SCI) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, has had to close down. This company was formed in 1974 and has been in operation continuously since then, but in 2010 it was placed under the UN sanctions. In particular, the US administration has been going after the Iranian shipping company for alleged “deceptive practices” to avoid coming under sanctions, like changing the registry of its ships. According to S. Hajara, the chairman and managing director of India’s SCI, "charters don't want to take vessels which are under sanctions. The company is having difficulty deploying the vessels and that's why the decision has been taken."
Shortly after the announcement of the dissolution of the Irano Hind Shipping Company, it has come to light that the UPA government has now banned Iranian ships from Indian waters. This comes after the US imposed sanctions on all 58 vessels of the National Iranian Tanker Company. The banning of Iranian ships from Indian waters has badly hit the crude oil supplies of the Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL). The MRPL managing director P.P. Upadhya said that “We were to import four tankers, or cargoes of about 90,000 tonnes each, from Iran in July. But we were able to get only one as the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) approval was withdrawn by the government.” To make up for the shortfall arising from the loss of Iranian crude, the company has had to almost double its purchase of crude from the spot market at enhanced cost.
After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to India in May, much was made out of the fact that India had been exempt from sanctions for dealing with Iran, because it had agreed to cut its imports from that country. What the latest developments show is that the relentless US pressure on India to cut its ties with Iran is continuing without let-up. It is affecting all aspects of India’s relations with Iran. Because India is a big country in the neighbourhood of Iran, with historically close ties with Iran, the US imperialists see India as an important factor in its attempts to encircle and weaken Iran. To get India to comply with its sanctions, it is using a mixture of blackmail and “rewards” for falling in line with its policy. It is trying to get India to turn for its oil imports to supplier countries allied to the US, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq. Already Iraq has overtaken Iran as a supplier of crude oil to India. The Indian government is following an unprincipled policy in this regard, and has been steadily cutting its ties with Iran citing its helplessness in the fact of the sanctions. This unprincipled policy is at the cost of the interests of the Indian people and the energy and other requirements of this country. Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, India's annual average cost of imported crude oil has increased by $27 per barrel, causing India's oil import bill to rise from $100 billion to $140 billion. This is a huge 40 per cent increase, the cost of which is being borne by the Indian people.
The Indian working class and people must raise their voice against this unprincipled and opportunistic policy of the Indian government on the question of Iran, and its refusal to confront the pressure imposed by US imperialism. The Iranian people are being ferociously attacked by US imperialism for their consistent opposition to imperialist domination. The Indian working class and people are also opposed to imperialist domination and aggression in any form. The ties between India and Iran have always been close. We should resolutely oppose any pressure and interference by US and other imperialists on our relations, and demand that the Indian government take a consistent stand in opposition to it.