In the aftermath of the recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and an indication of rising U.S. pressure not to deal with Iran working, the Central Government, on Tuesday, admitted that it had cut the crude oil supplies from Iran by 11 per cent to 15.5 million tonnes this fiscal.

“Total crude oil imported from Iran by Indian companies during 2010-11 and 2011-12 is 18.50 million tonnes and 17.44 million tonnes, respectively. The target fixed for import of crude oil from Iran for 2012-13 is about 15.5 million tonnes,'' Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas R. P. N. Singh said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

India has been under tremendous U.S. pressure to curtail sourcing of crude oil from Iran following sanctions imposed by it and the European Union. However, India had stated that it was not bound by bloc sanctions and it would only go by UN backed sanctions. Mr. Singh said the quantum of crude oil imported by Indian refineries from various sources is decided by them on the basis of technical, commercial and other considerations. “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.

Diversifying sourcing

In fact, a recent strategy paper by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry had called for diversifying the sourcing of crude oil from the traditional countries to new sources, which was an indication of the changing equations and attempts by India not to annoy the U.S. on the issue. During her visit to India last week, Ms. Clinton had stressed on the need for India to further reduce crude oil imports from Iran to win waiver from U.S. sanctions.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, in reply, had said Iran was a key country for India's energy needs. India had not publicly said it was aiming to cut back oil imports from Iran but was understood to have unofficially conveyed to refiners and importers to prune shipments from Tehran.