NEW DELHI India will send a business delegation to Iran at the end of February to explore how it can increase exports in order to meet payments for Iranian oil hit by international sanctions, a senior government official said on Thursday.
India, Iran's second-biggest oil client after China, buys 12 percent of its oil needs from the Islamic nation, worth about $12 billion annually.
Last month, Reuters reported that India would pay for some of its oil imports in rupees via an Indian bank, resorting to the partially convertible currency after more than a year of payment problems in the face of fresh, tougher U.S. sanctions.
To meet its oil demand, India could step up exports including in farm products such as wheat, industrial goods and gems and jewelry, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities of the subject.
"You have to devise a mechanism with which you can pay for the import of oil and avoid attracting sanctions," the official said. "We will need to lead a business delegation there, taking potential exporters across a range of sectors, and go out there and talk to their counterparts."
"It's for individual traders to strike deals with each other," the official said.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; editing by Krittivas Mukherjee)