Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Indian PM arrives in Tehran, Chabahar deal on agenda

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday landed in Iran for a two-day visit, during which a trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop the Chabahar port in the Persian Gulf nation will be signed.

Modi, who was given a red carpet welcome at the airport, was received by Iranian Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Ali Tayebnia.

He will be accorded an official welcome in Tehran on Monday, following which he will hold talks with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Connectivity, energy security and bilateral trade are on top of Modi’s agenda during his visit

On Monday, the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop the Chabahar port in that Gulf nation will be signed.

The Prime Minister will also inaugurate an Indian cultural festival in Iran on Monday.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sudnay arrived in Tehran on a two-day visit (Photo Credit: Hemmat Khani, Isna)

Ahead of his departure from New Delhi, Modi tweeted that he looked forward to his visit to Iran at the invitation of President Rouhani.

“India and Iran enjoy civilisational ties and have shared interest in the peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region,” he said.

He said his meetings with President Rouhani and Supreme Leader Khamenei would provide an opportunity to advance the strategic partnership between India and Iran.

Modi said that priority would be given to enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people-to-people contacts.

In an interview to Iran’s IRNA news agency before of his arrival here, Modi said the two countries have “always focused to add strength to our relations, even during the difficult times. In the current context, both countries can look to expand our cooperation in the fields of trade, technology, investment and infrastructure and energy security.”

Stating that India’s public and private sector firms were keen on investing in Iran, he said the signing of agreement on development of Chabahar port will provide wider connectivity.

“Lifting of the international sanctions against Iran has opened up immense opportunities for both the countries, especially in the economic sphere,” Modi said, adding that India is keen to enhance its investment in the Persian Gulf nation and also welcomes flow of capital and investments from there.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sudnay arrived in Tehran on a two-day visit (Photo Credit: Hemmat Khani, Isna)

The energy sector, he said, was one of the most important dimensions of bilateral economic ties and with investment in development of Farzad-B gas field, the relationship would go beyond the buyer-seller dealings to being genuine partners.

On impending meetings with Iranian leaders, Modi said: “Iran is part of our extended neighbourhood, an important nation in the region and one of India’s valuable partners.

“We are connected with each other by the shared history and civilisational ties. We have shared interest in peace, stability and prosperity of the region. Combating the menace of international terrorism and radical ideologies is a common challenge.”

He further said taking concrete steps for enhancing regional connectivity is one of the most important and promising dimensions of the ties between India and Iran.

“Building a genuine energy partnership, cooperation in the infrastructure, ports, railway and petrochemicals sectors and developing the age-old civilisational ties through people-to-people exchanges in the modern times will also be a priority,” Modi said.

An agreement on state-owned Nalco setting up a 5-lakh tonne per annum aluminium plant in Chabahar free-trade zone is also to be signed tomorrow.

From Chabahar, the existing Iranian road network can link up to Zaranj in Afghanistan, about 883 kms from the port. The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan-Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sudnay arrived in Tehran on a two-day visit (Photo Credit: Hemmat Khani, Isna)

Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Baluchistan Province on Iran’s southern coast, is of great strategic utility for India. It lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India’s western coast.

The port project will be the first overseas venture for an Indian state-owned port. India and Iran had in 2003 agreed to develop Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman outside the Strait of Hormuz, near Iran’s border with Pakistan.

But the project moved slowly because of Western sanctions against Iran. The sanctions were lifted in January and since then, India has been pushing for conclusion of an agreement.

About a fifth of the oil consumed worldwide each day passes through the Strait, a shipping choke point that separates the Persian Gulf from the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean.

Indian investment in phase-1 will be in excess of $200 million, including $150-million line of credit from Exim Bank, an agreement for which would also be signed during the visit.

Besides signing of commercial contract for Chabahar Phase-1, Modi will witness signing of a trilateral agreement on transport and transit corridor among India, Afghanistan and Iran.

The trilateral agreement is seen to significantly enhance prospects of India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond such as the North-South corridor.

Modi and the Iranian president are also likely to review peace and stability in the region which faces several challenges, including terrorism and violent extremism, besides cyber crime and maritime security.

The tribiune India contributed to this report

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