Awaiting banking channel to clear Iran’s $6.5-billion dues: Pradhan
The government is ready to clear the $6.5-billion oil dues to Iran but is waiting for a proper banking channel to be put in place, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Friday.
"$6.5 billion is due to Iran...but they have to create a banking channel. They are looking into it and we are cooperating with them," Pradhan told reporters here on the sidelines of the Maritime India Summit.
He said, he had discussed the payments issue with the president of the Iranian Central Bank and other officials during his recent visit to Tehran.
"They want the money in euros, so there has to be a European bank for this exchange but they have to clarify in which bank they want to take the money into. Some banks are coming forward to receive the Iranian money though," the minister said.
The dues to Iran mounted after the Western nations and the UN imposed economic sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear weapons programme. India had been paying Iran in Indian rupees during the peak of the embargo.
"Very soon, we will be developing a payment gateway or banking clearance mechanism for the payment. So, they have to create a banking channel. They are looking into that and we are cooperating with them," he said. Pradhan visited a host of cities such as Tehran and Chabahar in Iran; Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE and the Saudi capital of Riyadh during April 9-12.
On whether he scouted for some assets for ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) during his visit, the minister said, it already has a stake in Farzad-B and the priority is to develop this gas field.
"I am very delighted to see the commitment of Iranians to this project and I am hopeful of the project getting off ground as things are moving in the right direction," he said.
Last September, OVL had submitted a $10 billion proposal for Farzad-B gas fields. The bids were submitted by a consortium of OVL, Oil India and Indian Oil, which had discovered 12.8 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the Farsi block in 2008, which was later named Farzad-B. On Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers' proposed urea plant near the Chabahar Port, which is being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan, he said he is hopeful that there would be a great cooperation between India and Iran.
Pradhan had detailed talks with his Iranian counterpart, the Central Bank and advisor to the President on the project.
On success of the ‘Give It Up’ campaign, the minister said the number of people who have given up subsidised cooking gas connections will touch 1 crore in two to three days. During the visit, he had discussed investment opportunities in several hydrocarbon sector projects in the country, including ONGC Petro Additions, Bharat Oman Refineries, petchem complex in Andhra, the West Coast refinery and the Ennore LNG terminal.