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Imports hit by West’s Iran curbs, India may opt for Tajikistan oil

With severe economic sanctions imposed by the US-led Western establishment and a subservient United Nations against Iran hitting India’s oil procurement from there, New Delhi is looking out for alternative energy sources and is in talks with Tajikistan to import oil to meet its energy deficiency.

Energy security emerged as one of the focus areas during talks between Vice-President Hamid Ansari and the top Tajikistan leadership here. Indian officials said they are interested in having cooperation in this area.  'Yes, we have been told that there are oil and gas reserves in Tajikistan... it will first need prospecting. Only thereafter one can exploit it. Now we are at a very early stage. We have been told this is an area where we can have cooperation,' Sanjay Singh secretary (East), ministry of external Affairs said.

He added, 'And since India is looking for oil and gas assets around the world, I see no reason why we should not do so with Tajikistan also in due course'. If things go as planned, Tajikistan may emerge as a big supplier to cater oil and petroleum products to India.

Refusing to 'lay down a quota' for importing oil from any country, including Iran, top Indian officials have made it clear that it will buy oil from wherever it 'gets the best deal'. India has maintained that it would continue to buy oil from 'vital supplier' Iran even though there has been a recent decline in oil import from the Islamic country. India has said that the decline was due to logistics and banking problems.

The Persian Gulf nation has slipped four places to become India's seventh-largest crude oil supplier in the last fiscal.

Iran, which was India's second biggest supplier of crude oil after Saudi Arabia in 2010-11, supplied 9.7 million tons during April-December period of 2012.

The supplies from Iran were behind Saudi Arabia's 24.8 million tons, Iraq's 17.2 million tons, Venezuela's 15.1 million tons, Kuwait's 13.2 million tons and UAE's 11.4 million tons. And this is where Tajikistan could play a role in the longer run.

Tajikistan also has immense geo-strategic significance for India as its borders with China (520-km), Afghanistan (1,420 km) and because of the Afghan-Wakhan corridor (16-km), which is the least distance between Tajikistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Vice President Hamid Ansari, who is on a four-day visit to Tajikistan, has held meeting with top leadership here to discuss mutual cooperation on security issues and countering cross-border terrorism.
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