India uses the Chabahar port to deliver relief materials to Afghanistan. Chabahar port might help increase India’s trade with Iran.
Downward Trajectory of Economic Ties with Iran
The souring trade ties between India and Iran have been aggravating since India stopped importing petrol from the gulf country. Both countries registered trade of more than USD 17 billion in 2018-19. However, the bilateral trade came down to USD 3 billion in 2019. The withdrawal of the USA from Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018. This ended waivers which allowed several countries easy import of oil from Iran.
Tea and Basmati Rice Exports Choked
Around one-third of India’s basmati rice goes to Iran. Also, it accounts for more than 21% of total tea exports. However, delayed payment from Iran owing to decreasing balance in rupee-rial trade account has hit the bilateral trade severely. The rice trade association states that around Rs 2000 crore is due for payment to Indian rice exporters. Vinod Kaul, Executive Director, All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA) confirmed that charges for consignments exported from December 2019 till July this year are stuck. Likewise, Anshuman Kanoria, Chairman, Indian Tea Exporters’ Association revealed that Iran had not cleared a considerable sum due to tea exporters.
A senior official of UCO bank confirmed that the balance in the rupee-rial account is continuously depleting. That said, the authorities are exploring other alternatives to continue trade between both countries. Discussions are going on importing fertilizers, dates, kiwi, and saffron in exchange for crude oil.
The governments of both countries established rupee-rial mechanism for more straightforward trade. The oil refineries in India deposited money at UCO Bank and IDBI Bank for the import of crude oil. This facilitated payments to rice exporters. However, charges to rice exporters are pending owing to the halt of crude oil import since May 2019.
In all, the impact of US sanctions on the economic ties of Iran and India is profound. Moreover, the Gulf nation has also started importing basmati from Pakistan. India must realize the importance of Chabahar port to revive the economic link with Iran.