India cuts crude imports from Iran by 11 per cent

Bowing to US pressure, the Indian government today made a climb-down from its earlier stand that it would not sacrifice its energy security under any circumstances and said it had proposed to cut crude oil supplies from Iran by 11 per cent to 15.5 million tonnes this financial year.

"The total crude oil imported from Iran by Indian companies during the period 2010-11 and 2011-12 was 18.50 million tonnes and 17.44 million tonnes, respectively. The target fixed for import of crude oil from Iran for the year 2012-13 is approximately 15.5 million tonnes,'' minister of state for petroleum and natural gas RPN Singh said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

The announcement made after the recent visit of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, invited strong criticism from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which took strong exception to the government succumbing to US pressure. The party also demanded a reply from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue.

India, which sources 12 per cent of its oil needs from Iran, has been under tremendous US pressure to cut import of crude oil from that country in the wake of the sanctions imposed by the US and its European allies. India has so far been insisting that it was not bound by bloc sanctions and it would only go by UN backed sanctions.

The minister said the actual quantum of crude oil imported by Indian refineries from various sources is decided on the basis of technical, commercial and other considerations.

``In order to reduce its dependence on any particular region of the world, India has been consciously trying to diversify its sources of crude oil imports to strengthen the country's energy security,'' he said.

The move to cut down on crude imports from Iran should be seen as a climb-down from external affairs minister S M Krishna's stance that Iran is a key country for India's energy needs.

India, which imports crude from over 30 countries, is also understood to have unofficially asked refiners to reduce shipments from Iran.