Journalist arrested in New Delhi bomb attack

By Nirmala George

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 7 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

India brushed off the international outrage over the blasts and said it would go ahead with a visit to Tehran this weekend by an Indian trade delegation headed by the commerce secretary.

"India needs the Iranian crude. It would be very difficult to find alternative sources of oil that would be acceptable to Indian refineries," a commerce ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Many of India's aging oil refineries are configured to use Iranian crude oil. Retrofitting these refineries would be costly, the official said.

India is also looking after its strategic interests in Iran's neighbor Afghanistan, which India hopes to prevent from falling under the sway of its archrival, Pakistan, after the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops.

India uses Iranian ports to send goods to Afghanistan as it scrambles to maintain influence there.

"India is now in a panic over what lies ahead in Afghanistan. The Americans are leaving Afghanistan; they are talking to the Taliban. India will find itself scrambling for access in Afghanistan," says K.C. Singh, a former Indian ambassador to Iran.

To this end, India is helping develop the southern Iranian port of Chabahar and a rail link that will offer it direct access to Afghanistan.

New Delhi has not remained completely immune to sanction pressures and is slowly easing its dependence on Iranian oil.

Trends show a gradual decline in Iranian oil imports, with a temporary spike in January due to the bunching of earlier supplies that were delayed due to payment hurdles.

India has also developed close ties with Israel after diplomatic relations were established in 1992, and Tel Aviv has emerged as an important arms supplier.

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