An offshore oil platform near Lavan island, operated by the National Iranian Offshore Oil Co. Iran was India’s seventh biggest oil supplier in January. Image Credit: Bloomberg

New Delhi, Washington

India wants to keep buying Iranian oil at its current level of about 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), as it negotiates with Washington about extending a sanctions waiver past early May, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. New Delhi is asking to be allowed to still buy Iranian oil at current levels of around 1.25 million tonnes per month, or about 300,000 barrels per day, the sources said.

The US reimposed sanctions against Iran in November last year in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear and missile ambitions, after President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers.

Although the US granted Iran’s biggest customers — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece — waivers that have allowed them to continue limited imports, Washington is putting pressure on governments to eventually cut imports to zero. The current round of waivers expires around May 4.

Vincent Campos, a spokesman at the US State Department’s energy bureau, did not confirm that India was asking the US to renew its waiver, but said talks are ongoing with the eight consumers of Iran’s oil that received waivers in November with the aim of eventually cutting the imports to zero.

“We continue to have bilateral discussions,” with each of the countries including India, Campos said.

Talks with Washington on extending the waiver slowed due to the US government shutdown that extended through January, one of the Indian sources said. Talks have now resumed and India wants to get clarity before general elections scheduled in May, the source said.

India’s move to seek extended sanctions exemptions comes as Washington plans to end preferential trade treatment for India that allows duty-free entry for up to $5.6 billion worth of its exports to the United States.

India is the biggest beneficiary of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which dates from the 1970s, and ending its participation would be the strongest punitive action the United States has taken against the country since Trump took office.

Iran was India’s seventh biggest oil supplier in January compared with its position as third biggest a year ago before the reimposition of sanctions.

Iran, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), exported almost 3 million bpd of oil at its pre-sanctions peak, but supply has dwindled to around 1.25 million bpd since the start of the year, shipping data in Refinitiv showed.