-“It has been a challenge to find alternative sources of oil at the same price and quality, and it has affected the bottom line in India,” Ambassador Harsh Vardhan Shringla told Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Tuesday.
Indian refineries are built according to Iranian crude specifications as are many refineries in South Korea, Japan and China.
Indian sources have said the government was looking at ways to resume oil imports from Iran despite US sanctions which aim to dry up Iranian revenues.
Shringla said New Delhi hopes Washington will show flexibility on waivers which allowed eight countries to continue oil imports from Iran, before the Trump administration halted them.
India stopped oil imports from Iran after the six-month US waiver for its unilateral sanctions ended on May 2.
“It was an important priority for the US and we went along with it. But we also expect the United States to show similar sensibility when it comes to our priorities,” Shringla said.
Indian media outlets quoted a senior government official as saying in May that New Delhi was “keen to resume imports, though the quantum will be limited”.
The announcement came as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited New Delhi and reportedly asked India to continue sourcing part of its oil imports from Iran.
Before the sanctions, India was Iran’s second biggest oil buyer after China, sourcing about 10% of its supplies from the Islamic Republic.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already come under opposition attacks over his failure to guarantee continued access to Iranian oil.
“The US ban on exporting crude oil from Iran to India, is it not an attack on India’s sovereignty?” Randeep Singh Surjewala, a Congress Party lawmaker and national spokesman, said in April.
State refiners Indian Oil Corp, Bharat Petroleum Corp, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals and Hindustan Petroleum Corp were Iran’s oil customers. Between January and April, they reportedly bought 304,500 barrel per (bpd) of Iranian oil.
According to Indian media, New Delhi has told US authorities that it was impossible to make immediate arrangements for 23.5 million tonnes of oil – the amount supplied by Iran every year – from an alternative source.
Unlike India, China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
At least 12 Iranian tankers have loaded and delivered oil across Asia and the Mediterranean since May 2, the paper said.
China continues to be the largest buyer of Iranian oil even as the Trump administration is starting to intensify sanctions enforcement to try to end the exports to the Asian powerhouse.
Last month, the US announced sanctions against Chinese state-owned enterprise Zhuhai Zhenrong for continuing oil purchases from Iran.
The company, however, is already under US sanctions for supplying gasoline to Iran in 2012 and has little overseas exposure.
The Iran sanctions have added another fault line to already strained relations between Washington and Beijing amid an escalating trade war being waged by President Donald Trump.