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Aim will be to boost trade, energy partnership: PM on Iran visit

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Tehran: Ahead of his maiden visit to energy- rich Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said enhancing connectivity, trade, investment and energy partnership will be his priority with the post-sanction Persian Gulf nation.

Modi, who arrives here this evening, will hold talks with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its President Hassan Rouhani to boost bilateral trade, energy and strategic ties.

“Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority,” he said in a series of tweets. After arrival here, he is scheduled to visit a local gurudwara.
Modi said that his meetings with Rouhani and the Supreme Leader of Iran would provide an opportunity to advance “our strategic partnership”. Rouhani will be hosting a lunch for him.

“My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon’ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership,” he said.

Noting that he looked forward to the conclusion of the Chahbahar Agreement during his visit, the Prime Minister said, “India and Iran enjoy civilisational ties and have shared interest in the peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region.

Chabahar is a port in South-East Iran that will enable India to bypass Pakistan and open up a route to land-locked Afghanistan with which New Delhi has close security ties and economic interests.

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.

Besides visiting the gurudwara, Modi will also inaugurate an International Conference on ‘Retrospect and Prospect’ of India-Iran relations. “I am looking forward to my visit to Iran today & tomorrow, at the invitation of President Rouhani,” he added.

Besides signing a deal on development of Chabahar port, India is looking at doubling oil imports from Iran which a few years back was its second-biggest oil supplier, as well as getting rights to develop a giant gas field.

Post-sanctions Iran has seen a flurry of diplomatic and business activity with leaders from China and Russia courting Tehran.

Earlier, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Tehran.

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 USD 200 million, including USD 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.

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