Washington: An influential American Senator on Friday asked India to stop import of oil from Iran, as the Obama Administration defended its decision to grant a sanctions waiver to New Delhi.
"The Indians` purchase of oil from Iran, in my judgment, endangers the entire world community and is a destabilising factor for the Middle East," Senator Jim Risch, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during confirmation hearing for Nisha Desai Biswal, nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia.
Risch asked Biswal to convey his concerns about import of oil from Iran to India.
"Tell them at least some members of this body are deeply disappointed in what they`re doing," he said.
Biswal defended the waiver decision, saying Iran used to be India`s second-largest supplier, but is now fifth or sixth.
"I understand they keep telling me, well, they`ve reduced it. Well, again, you don`t need to reduce it; you need to just quit it. And that`d be my message to them," Risch said.
"I was one that was deeply disappointed when the waiver was granted. I don`t understand it. We have a clear policy as far as our embargo with Iranian oil and other products," he said, adding that he recently met the Indian Ambassador to the US in this regard, but remains unsatisfied.
"With oil being as fungible as it is and as widely available as it is, there`s absolutely no reason for India to purchase oil if indeed they want to support the world community and indeed want to support us as a friend and a partner.
"For them to be buying anything from Iran - I understand it`s a long-standing relationship and what have you, but the Iranians have demonstrated that it`s going to take who knows what to stop them from the path that they`re on," he argued.
Senator Jim Kaine, chairing the hearing, said that India needs to tell the Iranians that it will stop import of their oil if they continue their present policy on nuclear weapons.
"Working with your Indian counterparts, it can maintain a relationship with Iran by saying, look, we`re going to eliminate our purchases or dramatically cut them even more unless and until you make plain that you don`t have a path toward nuclear weaponry, but as soon as you do, we`re not only going to buy what we`re buying, we want to buy more," he said.
In her response, Biswal said if confirmed, she would work with her Indian counterparts in this regard.
"I am aware that Indian imports of Iranian crude have gone down significantly since the sanctions have been in place. Iran used to be the number two supplier, and it is somewhere in the neighborhood of five or six on that list currently," Biswal said.