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India rebukes US over Iran nuclear deal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) in New Delhi, India on February 17, 2018 [Iranian Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency]
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) in New Delhi, India on February 17, 2018 [Iranian Presidency / Handout / Anadolu Agency]

India has waded into the diplomatic row with the US by delivering a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump with a categorical rejection of his decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, prior to a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj insisted that her country will not accept sanctions imposed by the US.

"Our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries," Swaraj told journalists. "We recognise UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn't follow US sanctions on previous occasions either."

Swaraj's comments appears to be a direct response to threats made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who earlier this month said that countries that "continue to deal with Iran could face sanctions".

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Swaraj's comments and the visit by Zarif to Delhi, who is has been travelling to several capitals including Moscow, Beijing and Brussels, in an effort to salvage the agreement despite the US move, indicate the government intends to continue its engagement with Iran despite US sanctions.

Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a major setback for India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party has been able to make significant political gains due in large part to cheap oil price. Iran has been a major source of oil for Delhi, which requires uninterrupted supply of energy to meet its goal of bringing electricity to 300 million Indians living in rural parts of the country.

Analysts have pointed out that this strategy is a matter of survival for the BJP, and that a huge party governing 1.3 billion people isn't going to sacrifice its electoral strategy for the sake of Trump's pique and his national security advisor John Bolton's war-mongering.

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