New Delhi: Iran on Friday said it is working together with the Indian government to keep its oil export lines to India open even after US sanctions on the Gulf nation kick in on November 4 following Washington's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Global Mobility Summit here, the Iranian Roads and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi described the US as an "outsider" to the region and underlined the need to strengthen the traditional relationship between India and Iran.
"India and Iran's relationship is essential for region and we are looking at ways to work together. The US is an outsider in the region, so the insiders should come together and continue their friendship," he said.
The Iranian Minister's remarks come a day after India and the US signed a long-negotiated defence pact that enables Indian Armed Forces to buy more sensitive military equipment from Washington but there was no progress on securing a waiver from American sanctions that bar New Delhi from purchasing Russian weapons or Iranian oil.
India has been maintaining that purchase of Iranian crude is crucial to its energy security and that it would go ahead with its purchase of S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
Briefing reporters here after the first India-US 2+2 dialogue, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he had told the Indians "consistently that on November 4 the sanctions will be enforced, and that we will consider waivers where appropriate".
He, however, said the US expected that the purchases of Iranian crude oil would "go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed. So we'll work with the Indians".
"From whence they (India) purchase the other crude oil, we're happy to see if it's American products that are able to deliver for them."
However, responding to a question on India's Russian defence deal, Pompeo said: "Our effort here, too, is not to penalise great strategic partners like India, a major defence partner. The sanctions aren't intended to adversely impact countries like India. They are intended to have an impact on the sanctioned country."
India currently has a competitive agreement with Iran for oil supplies -- the shipping costs from the Persian Gulf are minimal in comparison to the US and Iran also offers a longer credit repayment period.
Iran became the second biggest oil supplier to India during the first quarter of the current fiscal with state-run oil companies opting for the heftier discounts offered by the Gulf nation, which thus replaced Saudi Arabia in this position, according to official data.