There is an element of unpredictability about US President Donald Trump’s demeanour and his attitude towards Indian much as he claims he is fond of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Trump administration this week said it would start to sanction countries that do not comply with its orders to stop buying oil from Iran, demanding that eight governments- including India and China- end all imports when six-month waivers run out next week.
India has cut Iranian oil from 17 to five per cent of its total crude imports and had also ended oil purchases from Venezuela, succumbing to US pressure as Trump tries to oust leftist President Nicolas Maduro. Yet, contrary to Indian thinking that the US administration was tending to show understanding, it has toughened its stand and set India thinking. Modi, whose government is one of the world’s biggest importers of Iranian crude, is now facing opposition attacks over his inability to win concessions from Washington.
Any step to stop importing oil from Iran will harm India’s energy security and national interests, but the US is oblivious of the harm it is threatening to cause to India. Succumbing to US pressure tamely shows up India as a weak country which Modi can ill afford but Trump is unfazed despite the convergence of Indian and US interests in many ways.
The American diktat on Iran followed Trump’s announcement in March that India, along with Turkey, would no longer enjoy a preferential trading status for a wide range of manufactured goods. The US President had also spurned India’s invitation to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade after making New Delhi wait for many weeks, in a move that some said compromised India’s self-respect.
India’s latest move of threatening to impose sanctions follows a message in March that India’s cuts in imports were sufficient to be granted a fresh waiver.