Israel wants India to lessen dependence on Iran

Tel Aviv wants to partner New Delhi to explore Mediterranean gas reserves

Nudging India to lessen dependence on hydrocarbon imports from Iran, Israel has indicated that it is keen to offer New Delhi favourable terms both for partnership in production from its new-found natural gas reserves in Mediterranean Sea as well as for sale of the produce.

Days after Tel Aviv blamed Tehran for the blast on an Israeli Embassy official here, the Jewish country’s Minister for National Infrastructure, Uzi Landau, on Wednesday nudged India to move towards lessening its dependence on Iran and cited the instance of Israel to drive home the point that New Delhi could indeed explore alternative sources to meet its energy needs and consider buying more hydrocarbons from open market.

Landau called on Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, S Jaipal Reddy, on Tuesday and held discussions on the prospects of energy partnership between his country and India.

He, however, said that Tel Aviv had not yet made any specific offer to New Delhi, as it was yet to frame its policy on production and export of natural gas from Leviathan and Tamar reserves in Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel. “We will however like to boost our energy partnership with India and we will of course offer favourable terms to the countries that are friendly to Israel,” he said.

While fresh US sanctions is likely to make it difficult for India to pay for the crude oil it imports from Iran, Tel Aviv’s allegation against Tehran after the February 15 blast on the car of the Israeli Embassy here added to the pressure on New Delhi to slash its energy ties with Tehran.

Landau’s is the first visit by a high-level dignitary from Tel Aviv after the blast injured Tal Yehoshua, the wife of Chief Security Officer of Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. Yehoshua, who herself is also an employee of the Israeli Embassy, was initially admitted to a hospital in New Delhi, but was later flown to Tel Aviv. She is now recuperating in Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Minister called on National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and held discussions on the investigations into the blast.

“We are highly impressed with the level of professionalism and commitment of the investigators and authorities in India and are satisfied with the probe,” Landau told a group of journalists on Wednesday. He said that Israel would share any information investigators in India might need and would also like to offer any other assistance if required.

Though New Delhi did not echo Tel Aviv to blame Tehran for the February 13 blast, the visiting Israeli Minister on Wednesday reiterated that the Government of the Jewish country had deep conviction that it was the “long arm” of the regime in Iran that was behind the incident.

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