Haley warns of Iran import curbs

The US is acting tough on India regarding energy imports from Iran and New Delhi, despite its efforts to preserve energy independence, may be forced to comply to avoid sanctions from kicking in.

The Iran message was delivered most clearly by US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, during her visit to the Capital. In a special address, Haley said: “The world is united against Iran having nuclear weapons because we all have good reason to worry about what Iran would do with those weapons.”

During the Obama years, India had to show a “significant reduction” and demonstrate it was bringing down oil imports at an average rate of 20% every six months. But Trump has insisted that this goes down to “zero”. That is also why the state department’s briefing to journalists this week on Iran was tougher than the one in early May.

Haley’s message on Iran comes even as it emerged that the US pulled out of the 2+2 dialogue with India because secretary of state Mike Pompeo chose to travel to North Korea to “follow up” on the Trump-Kim Singapore summit. The decision, seen as an open snub to India, also comes at a time when the bilateral relationship is under strain amid growing trade and economic disputes besides the threat of sanctions over Iran.

Sources said the dialogue would be rescheduled “soon” but bringing four top ministers together on a single day is proving to be a challenge.

Haley was unambiguous on Iran. Describing Iran as a “theocratic dictatorship that abuses its people, funds terrorism and spreads conflict throughout the Middle East”, she said: “The Tehran regime is the hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden, force behind most of the conflict in the region. And its aggressive ambitions reach much further abroad. Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon threatens all of us.”

During her meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Haley re-emphasised the importance of India cutting oil imports from Iran. In an interview to a TV channel, Haley reiterated that message: “I think for the future of India, future of resources, we would encourage them to rethink their relationship with Iran.”

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