External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday clarified that India does accept sanctions imposed, or to be imposed, by the United States on Iran. “Our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries,” Swaraj told journalists at a press conference. “We recognise UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn’t follow US sanctions on previous occasions either.”
The remarks were a categorical rejection of Washington’s decision to withdraw from the six-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement and its plans to impose massive new sanctions on Iranian entities.
Swaraj’s comments came just ahead of a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has been travelling to several capitals including Moscow, Beijing and Brussels, in an effort to salvage the agreement despite the US move.
During the talks with his counterpart in Delhi, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif sought India's support in salvaging Iran's nuclear deal with leading world powers in the wake of the US pullout from it.
Sources said India oil trade with Iran and implementation of the Chabahar port project also figured prominently in the talks.
"FM Zarif briefed about the discussions that Iran has undertaken with parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) following the US decision to withdraw from the agreement," the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
It said Swaraj conveyed that all parties to the agreement should engage constructively for peaceful resolution of issues that have arisen with respect to it.
EAM @SushmaSwaraj welcomes Foreign Minister of #Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi ahead of the delegation-level talks. Our relations with Iran are unique and historical and we attach great importance to this relationship. pic.twitter.com/uuxGFZ7PGR— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) May 28, 2018
Zarif's day-long visit to Delhi was part of Tehran's efforts to reach out to major world powers after the US pulled out from the landmark nuclear deal of 2015 under which Tehran had agreed to stop its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Sources said Zarif sought India's support to the nuclear deal during his talks with Swaraj. China, Russia and a number of European countries are working to salvage the deal.
Iran is India's third-largest oil supplier and there were apprehensions about the possible impact of the US decision on India's oil imports.
Earlier in the day, Swaraj said India will continue its trade with Iran notwithstanding the US sanctions, adding that New Delhi only recognises UN sanctions.
The MEA said Swaraj and Zarif discussed bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.
"The two sides positively assessed the implementation of decisions taken during the visit of President Rouhani to India. These included bilateral cooperation in the areas of connectivity, energy, trade and promotion of people to people contacts," it said.
The MEA said the other members of the delegation accompanying Zarif had separate meetings with their counterparts where they discussed measures for practical cooperation between the two sides.
The Iranian Foreign Minister visited China, Russia and some European countries in the last three weeks after President Donald Trump announced Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Iran had struck the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) with the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany after years of negotiations.
Indo-Iran ties have been on an upswing in the last three years.
In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India during which both sides agreed to further expand their cooperation in a number of key sectors.
During Rouhani's visit, both sides signed nine agreements including one on handing over Chabahar port's operation to India for 18 months.
According to the MEA, India-Iran bilateral trade during the 2016-17 fiscal was USD 12.89 billion. India imported USD 10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, and exported commodities worth USD 2.4 billion.
(With inputs from PTI)