Hoping to wean India from Iranian oil imports, Hillary Clinton is urging Indian leaders to explore alternative suppliers as she opens a three-day visit to the energy-starved South Asian giant. Clinton arrived in the eastern city of Kolkata today as officials traveling with her said the Iranian oil imports would top an agenda that includes India's relations with nuclear rival Pakistan and the future of Afghanistan. Like other major consumers of Iranian oil, India could face US sanctions by the end of June if the Obama administration determines it has not made significant cuts in imports under a law aimed at squeezing Iran's petroleum industry.
India imports around 70% of its oil, and about 9% of the imports are from Iran, making Tehran India's second-largest crude oil supplier after Saudi Arabia. India has been pushing its oil companies to cut back crude imports from Iran and an Indian official expressed hope India will be exempted from the sanctions. "We believe we have a strong case, which we will put forth," the official said. Clinton's visit coincides with that of a large Iranian group exploring Indian goods and services Tehran can buy to offset billions of dollars worth of rupee payments that Iran has accumulated. A US official downplayed the presence of the Iranians, saying. "I don't think we are too concerned about it." (Read more Hillary Clinton stories.)