The Indian government is hoping to resume oil imports from Iran and Venezuela under a Joe Biden administration, Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan announced Wednesday.
India was one of Iran’s and Venezuela’s largest buyers of oil before President Donald Trump took office and imposed economic sanctions on both countries as part of his maximum pressure campaign against their respective regimes.
When asked by a reporter if he was hoping to resume imports under a Biden administration, Pradhan made the Indian government’s position abundantly clear.
“As a buyer, I would like to have more buying places,” he responded. “I should have more destinations to go for purchasing oil … Gone are days of monopoly. Producers have to recognize aspirations of consumers.”
Any resumption of imports would require the Biden administration to unilaterally remove sanctions on both countries, a move he may well consider. Having worked with former President Barack Obama on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal), Biden has stated he would like to give the country a “credible path back to diplomacy.” This will likely involve reconstructing the JCPOA, a position that would inevitably involve sanctions relief.
Biden’s position on Venezuela remains more ambiguous. Although his foreign policy instincts in Latin America have generally been closer to appeasement, he has indicated that he will support continued efforts to remove the Maduro regime from power and instigate a transition to democracy. During his presidential campaign, Biden denounced Maduro as a “dictator” and attacked Trump for expressing a willingness to meet with him under the right circumstances.
The two men have previously met during Biden’s tenure as vice-president, where rather than challenging him over his human rights atrocities, he chose to compliment Maduro’s strong hairline. Last month, Maduro reached out to Biden, expressing a desire for a “decent, sincere, direct channels of dialogue,” in an attempt to open the possibility of sanctions relief.
The Obama administration did eventually sanction various Venezuelan officials over their role in the repression of political dissidents during the large-scale anti-government demonstrations in 2014-2016, although no meaningful action was ever taken to remove Maduro from power. Maduro at one point accused Biden of personally plotting his assassination, a claim for which he never provided evidence.
Questions remain as to why the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, would support Venezuela’s socialist regime. Pradhan insisted that India continues to share “sound” diplomatic relations with America, explaining that both countries depend on one another.