New Delhi, Feb. 23: India has started doubling its monthly crude purchase from Iran, with imports amounting to 3 million tonnes (mt) in January.
New Delhi will build a container terminal at the Chabahar port in Iran at a cost of $174 million to handle the extra load of tankers and container ships carrying oil to India.
The deals come ahead of a visit by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif this week.
In April-December 2013, India imported 6.88mt of crude, or an average of 1.15mt a month. Officials said India was planning to buy more crude from Iran with the easing of sanctions against that country following a US-EU deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
India has also offered to build the container terminal at Chabahar on the Makran coast. Chabahar will not only allow the shipping of crude from eastern Iran but also be India’s doorway to Central Asia and Afghanistan.
The strategically located port is about 72km west of Pakistan’s Gwadar port being developed by China and is connected by road to Central Asian countries as well as Zaranj in Afghanistan’s southwestern province of Nimruz. India has already helped Afghanistan to build a 218km expressway to Delaram, which connects to a circular highway linking most of Kabul’s major cities.
India also plans to build a railway line of 900 km from Chabahar to Hajigak, passing through Zaranj and Delaram, to evacuate iron ore from the $1-trillion Hajigak mine in Afghanistan. The mining rights were bagged by an Indian consortium led by Steel Authority of India Ltd two years back.
Officials said the jump in crude imports could eventually raise India’s oil imports from Iran back to levels prior to sanctions of 21mt annually. India will end 2013-14 by importing about 11mt of crude. If sanctions had continued, this would have been reduced by another 15 per cent.
According to officials, state-run ONGC has a contract to explore the gas-rich Farsi block in Iran. The PSU would like to move to a production-sharing regime, which will allow it to ship close to 13 trillion cubic feet of gas into this country.
Last year, Iran had offered India a new production-sharing regime for oil exploration.