DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - An Iranian-led shipping venture that predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution is now unraveling as one of the most high-profile blows from new international sanctions and U.S.-driven efforts to drive wedges between Tehran and its key international trading partners.
The impending collapse of the Irano Hind Shipping Co. - created in 1974 with India's state-run maritime firm - is likely to be noted in Washington and among allies as evidence of the deepening wounds from the diplomatic and economic onslaught over Iran's nuclear program.
But in another sense, it illustrates the growing strains in Asian capitals over the economic squeeze on Tehran. Leaders in India and elsewhere must now balance crucial needs for Iran's energy exports with mounting demands from their American allies to freeze out the Islamic Republic.
In this 2008 file photograph, the 'Delight', a Hong Kong flagged vessel. operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines is seen on the river Trave, near Herrenwyk, Germany. An Iranian-led shipping venture with India that predates the 1979 Islamic Revolution is unraveling under pressures from international sanctions and U.S.-driven efforts to drive wedges between Tehran and its key trading partners.
The top executive of the Indian side of Irano Hind said Wednesday it had become too difficult to operate the fleet's seven vessels under sanctions - imposed by the U.S. in 2008 and U.N. two years later for the company's connections to the state-owned Iranian shipping line.
"The fleet will be split between the two partners," Sabyasachi Hajara, chairman and managing director of Shipping Corp. of India, told The Associated Press. "Irano Hind will cease operation."
He said the decision to dissolve the company was made last week at an Irano Hind board meeting and must be approved by the two governments and the United Nations. Officials at the company's majority-share partner, the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, or IRISL, could not be reached for immediate comment.
India is one of the main targets of U.S. attempts to chip away at Iran's critical commercial lifelines across Asia. In May, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi to urge leaders to further cut back on oil imports from Iran - still about 9 percent of India's fast-rising energy demand - and turn more to other suppliers such as Saudi Arabia.
It's an appeal that Washington has been pushing to Iran's other key oil customers in Asia such as China and South Korea.
The pressure is likely to grow even stronger with Tehran feeling a greater sting after the 27-nation European Union closed its doors to Iranian oil this month.
Yet it's also a hard sell in places such as India, which see no comprehensive alternatives to Iranian oil and are wary about damaging overall relations with Tehran. New Delhi even crafted a work-around after sanctions last year closed off Iran's access to international banking networks.
Under the agreement, India would pay for about 45 percent of the purchases in rupees and Tehran would use the Indian currency to buy goods from India.