New Delhi: Iran Friday said India is not like Taiwan or South Korea but a “rising” power that can “resist” pressure from the West even as Tehran pushes New Delhi to resume oil purchases that were stalled in 2019.
Addressing the media, the Ambassador of Iran to India, Iraj Elahi, also said their President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to visit India for the upcoming leaders’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). India is the current SCO chair and the summit is likely to be held in May this year.
“India is not Taiwan, not South Korea. It is not this or that country. India is a growing and rising power. India has a powerful economy. India could easily resist pressure from the West,” the envoy said on the possibility of resumption of oil purchases from that country by India.
Under pressure from the US-led sanctions laid down by the former Donald Trump administration, India stopped buying oil from Iran in an unprecedented move from May 2019 onwards.
“We are ready to export (oil) to India. But it is up to India. India is getting benefit from the situation in Russia, no one can blame India. India is following its national interest and Iran followed its own national interest,” Elahi said.
“We have learnt how to deal with sanctions, from oil export to money transfer. Sanction is not an obstacle. Our market is open to all buyers. We can sell oil to any country who wants to buy … We believe when India feels it’s in its interest, it will restart,” he added.
“All I want to say is that the number of countries under sanctions is increasing day by day. All countries should learn how to live under sanctions otherwise they will lose their interests,” said Elahi, adding that despite being under economic sanctions from the US for decades, Iran continued to sell oil and petrochemical products to those countries who were willing to buy.
‘Shortcomings’ In Chabahar Project
On the progress in the Chabahar connectivity project, the Iranian envoy said both India and Iran have implemented their commitments made and progress is happening. But he also admitted to “shortcomings” in the project that have led to a massive slowdown of the original plan.
“Of course, there are shortcomings from both sides. We understand the willingness of the Indian government towards Chabahar. We believe that Chabahar is not just an economic issue,” he said.
Elahi said the entire Chabahar project should be seen as a strategic one and not just a trade route reaping economic benefits.
“For India, Chabahar is important. For Iran also, it is important. But Iran has different ports in all parts of the Persian Gulf. We can use different ports for transit and import and export. But Chabahar is an oceanic port. It is close to the Indian Ocean and closest to the route to Afghanistan,” he said.
The Chabahar project, which is strategically located in the oil and gas-rich Sistan-Balochistan province, was envisioned as a major trade and transit hub between India, Iran and beyond, bypassing Pakistan.
President Raisi To Be In India For SCO Summit
According to Elahi, Iran President Ebrahim Raisi might visit India for the SCO Summit even as Tehran is all set to become a full member. Iran’s membership was finalised at the last SCO Summit that took place in September last year in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
“Next summit of SCO will be in India and Iran will be a full member of SCO. We are waiting for the summit & the Iran President will participate,” he said.
Iran will be officially entering the SCO as a member in April 2023, which is expected to give a boost to its economy by strengthening trade with the other members.
Iran, along with Afghanistan, Belarus and Mongolia, are currently four observer countries in the SCO. Iran signed a memorandum of commitment to obtain the status of an SCO member state during the last summit in Uzbekistan.
Thereafter, the Iranian parliament passed a bill on its accession to SCO and a bill on a memorandum of commitment for Iran as a member state of SCO got passed in November 2022 and January 2023. Now the memorandum has to be approved by the member countries of the organization one by one, according to the rules.
China-Brokered Iran-Saudi deal will Help India: Elahi
Elahi also said that the recent deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia facilitated by the Chinese will have a positive impact on India.
“It will benefit India since it helps in stability and security in the Persian Gulf. China is a power in the Gulf and it’s competing in the US. India is a rising power and we hope in coming years will be the third largest economy,” said the Iranian envoy.
He added: “India has always tried to have a positive role, but in this field, we did not witness any effort from India to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
Hinting at the US, the Iranian Ambassador said the deal was kept tightly confidential owing to the “third factor”.
“Saudi Arabia is the leading country in the Sunni world, Iran is a leading country in the Shia world. The Iran-Saudi understanding will impact the region positively. In the coming days, embassies will be opened … Iran should accept Saudi Arabia as it is, and Saudi Arabia should respect Iran as it is,” he said.
“Valuable efforts by China, and its capacity, at the end both countries sat on the table. This will impact the security, stability of the region,” Elahi added.