Vol. XLIII No. 12 March 23, 2019

US Dictating to India

HISTORY is repeating itself with the United States dictating whom India should buy oil from. The US had forced India to drastically reduce buying oil from Iran after it imposed unilateral sanctions on Iranian oil trade last year.  Now, the US is back to the business of coercing India to stop buying oil from Venezuela on whom it has imposed illegal sanctions.
The Modi government, after having bound itself into the strategic ties with the imperialist superpower, is unable to act in the national interests. It is proving itself to be incapable of safeguarding the energy security of the country.  
Iran was the third largest supplier of oil to India till the last quarter of 2018.  The United States, after breaking the nuclear agreement arrived with Iran, imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran’s oil trade. It demanded that India comply with the sanctions. The Modi government quickly caved in to the US pressure by promising reduction in oil purchases from Iran and, along with seven other countries, got a waiver to  buy reduced quantities of oil for six months (November 2018 to March 2019).  
India drastically reduced purchase of Iranian oil to 300 thousand barrels a day. During the recent visit of the foreign secretary Gokhale to Washington, the Modi government has pleaded for an extension of the waiver. The US may very well set out a timetable to taper off all Iranian purchases.
This is in stark contrast with the stand taken by China. When the US approached China to cut oil imports from Iran last year, it was firmly rebuffed. China is the biggest importer of Iranian oil and it continues to be so. 
However, within months of India complying with the US demand on Iranian oil, the US has now made a fresh demand that India stop oil imports from Venezuela.  This is another blow to India’s energy policy as Venezuela had become the third largest supplier of oil to India, replacing Iran.  
The United States has declared “war” on the Maduro government and imposed severe sanctions on the State-owned oil company – PDVSA.
The US national security advisor, John Bolton, warned India and other countries last month against purchasing oil from Venezuela.  Subsequently, Bolton publicly stated that he had twice spoken to the Indian national security advisor, Doval, about Venezuelan oil.  Significantly he did so when he was speaking to Doval about the Pulwama attack and its aftermath.
That the Modi government is preparing to capitulate to the US demand is also indicated by the enigmatic response of John Bolton who said that American concerns regarding India continuing to buy oil from Venezuela have been resolved.
When the Indian foreign secretary Gokhale met the US secretary of state in Washington on March 11, Pompeo urged India not to be “the economic lifeline for the Maduro regime”.  He also stated, “In the same way that India has been incredibly supportive of our efforts in Iran, I am confident that they too understand the real threat to the Venezuelan people”.  
India’s public sector and private sector oil companies have been buying oil from the oil producing countries based on commercial interests. With Iran, India was getting favourable terms and cheaper transportation rates. Venezuela too was providing oil on favourable terms.  To stop buying oil from these countries is going to harm India’s commercial interests and energy security. Instead, India has begun to buy US oil. The Indian Oil Company (IOC) has entered into a contract for deliveries from American oil companies for the first time.
Another example of the craven attitude of the Modi regime has emerged. Trump has targeted India in his trade wars. The US has withdrawn the preferential regime whereby 1900 items of imports from India had zero tariffs. Yet, the Modi government has not retaliated with increased tariffs on American goods to protect Indian interests.
Becoming a strategic ally of the United States is coming with a heavy price – the   Modi government is bartering away nothing less than the national sovereignty of the country.  
(March 20, 2019)