India to benefit from breakthrough in Iranian Nuke standoff

Washington: The breakthrough in a standoff between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme is likely to help major buyers of Iranian oil like India by lifting curbs on quantity of import and payment restrictions.

The US and its allies had blocked all financial channels in order to choke Iran to pressurise the countries like India to cut their oil purchase from the Persian Gulf nation. This saw India cut its imports from over 18 million tonnes five years back to 11 million tonnes in 2013-14. In 2014-15, US pressured India to maintain imports from Iran at 2013-14 level, which led to New Delhi not importing any oil last month.

Iran is one of the biggest suppliers of oil to India. The sanctions on Iran have brought a steady decline in oil and natural gas revenue, to USD 56 billion in the 2013- 2014 fiscal year from about USD 118 billion in the 2011- 2012 fiscal year, according to the International Monetary Fund. India was paying 45 per cent of bills against Iranian oil imports in rupee through a UCO Bank account.

For the rest it had to wait for opening of payment channel. The unpaid bills now total USD 5.9 billion. China, India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey are the largest buyers of crude from Iran, which has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. The sanctions currently restrict its overall exports to 1 million-1.1 million bpd.

Experts say Iran has at least 30 million barrels of crude oil in storage onboard tankers that could quickly move onto the market if sanctions were lifted. After marathon talks, the world powers and Iran yesterday agreed on the framework of a potentially historic deal aimed at scaling back Tehran's nuclear programme and relieving the Islamic Republic from the crippling sanctions.

US President Barack Obama praised the framework agreement on Iran's nuclear programme as a "historic understanding" and a "good deal" that is better than risking "another war" in the Middle East and one that would "cut off every pathway" Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani today hailed the agreement, saying it would open a "new page" for the country's international relations and lead to greater cooperation.

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