Hillary Clinton to seek assurances on India cutting Iranian oil imports

The US  would seek assurances from India on scaling down its purchases of oil from sanctions-hit Iran during secretary of state Hillary Clinton's visit to the country this week, a senior US official said yesterday.

Clinton started a three-day trip to India yesterday that would coincide with a visit by a large Iranian trade delegation, as India attempts to do a balancing act with the demands of ally US and sating its fast-growing energy needs.

During her visit, Clinton would also push for India opening up its supermarket sector to foreign chains such as US giant Wal-Mart Stores - a major economic reform that had stalled under prime minister Manmohan Singh's government.

Though India has rejected sanctions against Iran, it has asked refiners to cut imports of oil from Iran by 15-20 per cent, which it hopes would suffice to win a waiver from Washington.

The US in March granted exemptions to Japan and 10 EU nations from its sanctions, aimed at pressuring Iran to end its nuclear programme (See: US exempts Japan, 10 EU nations from Iran oil sanctions). India along with China, remain on a risk list in the event of their failure to ''substantially'' cut oil imports. India and China are the biggest importers of Iranian crude.

"Our assessment is India is making good progress but we really need to receive assurances that they are going to continue to make good progress," Reuters quoted an unnamed senior US official, travelling with Clinton, as saying.