'India Likely to Circumvent US Sanctions on Venezuela' – Professor

© REUTERS / Isaac UrrutiaAn oil pumpjack painted with the colors of the Venezuelan flag is seen in Lagunillas, Venezuela January 29, 2019
An oil pumpjack painted with the colors of the Venezuelan flag is seen in Lagunillas, Venezuela January 29, 2019 - Sputnik International
In an interview with Reuters, US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams has warned India against the purchase of Venezuelan oil, calling on New Delhi to stop helping the Venezuelan regime.

Radio Sputnik has discussed this with Pankaj Jha, professor of strategic studies at O.P. Jindal Global University at Sonipat, in northern Haryana state, India, who has also worked as Deputy Director with the National Security Council Secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office.

Sputnik: How justified is the US commanding tone towards New Delhi in regard to its dealings with Venezuela?

Pankaj Jha: It is basically unwanted and we have seen such kind of sanctions and demands from the US in the case of Iran and earlier also. So, it is nothing new for us and I think it is over-exceeding the basically bilateral ties to a certain extent.

Sputnik: Professor, and how would you assess the US unilateral decision to slap sanctions on Venezuela? How concerning is this for India, especially in the wake of sanctions against Iran, which is also India's trading partner?

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Pankaj Jha: Now, if you look into the turn of events, even with regard to Iran, the US cajoles us to really reduce our oil imports from Iran. But we have suffered too much in this regard because one of the shipping companies went bust and we have to get it disinvested. But still when the two plus two talks were held with India especially Pompeo and Mattis, we made it very clear that we cannot go beyond a certain limit with regard to imports from Iran.

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Iran is one of the top five exporters of oil to India. And I believe Venezuela which comes fourth in the line the same strategy will be adopted. And I believe that there might be certain turndown with regard to imports but not substantial.

Sputnik: Venezuela is offering more oil to India in the wake of US pressure. How likely is New Delhi to continue buying Venezuelan energy despite US pressure?

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Pankaj Jha: You know, with regard to Venezuelan oil, which is slightly heavy, we have few private refiners who have been importing oil from them. One is Nayara and one is Reliance Refinery. Reliance has a very high refining capacity in India and also Reliance has been very close to the power establishment in India. Now, given the fact that Reliance will take whatever is due with regard to its own profit and loss as for as a commercial benefits accruing to it, I believe it will be much or more on the private refiners to look into their commercial aspects rather than the state-owned refiners.

Because state-owned refiners still do not import that much of amount of oil from Venezuela. However, how the state refiners and private refiners decide on the next course of action will depend on how the issue will be or the crisis will be panning out in future. And whether there can be a viable media to circumvent this US-imposed sanctions regime.

Sputnik: Professor, and how likely is India to be subject to secondary sanctions over trade with Venezuela? And what could India do to avoid these sanctions?

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Pankaj Jha: If you look into the, again, going back to the Iranian example and such, when there were sanctions imposed with regard to Iran, we used a banking institution, the UCO Bank, which doesn't have so much of operating capacity nor so many uplinks with the US financial system. We used that bank for giving the payments in default way through the rupees mode. And it was accepted by Iran. I believe in the case of Venezuela we will also adopt a similar bank which can circumvent these US sanctions if they might be there.

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And secondly, given the fact that we do have a very slightly uncomfortable situation with regard to sudden trade tensions on across with China and also has certain tariffs which it has undertaken with India, I believe India will be ready for it. And it will be not too nice for the US to impose these secondary sanctions on India with regard to our trade with Venezuela because it is primarily oil. And given the fact that for India it is an election year, so any fluctuations in oil imports or other related aspects will have a very cascading effect on the electoral prospects of the current Prime Minister Modi, and he won't like to take this in a way.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Pankaj Jha and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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