All-weather ally Iran assures Swaraj of total commitment to India’s energy security
Recalling Iran’s rich history and a strong and consistent friendship with India, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday assured External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that his country can be a reliable partner for India’s energy needs. President Rouhani also spoke of Chabahar as a defining partnership with India which has the potential of connecting the entire region. He said that India and Iran have had very rich cultural ties through history and expressed the hope that this could pave the way for enhanced partnership in tourism and more people to people links. He also called for intensified engagement with India in academic, scientific and technological fields.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who called on President Rouhani in Teheran said that India has always considered Iran as part of its extended neighbourhood. Given natural complementarities between India and Iran, the External Affairs Minister said that the two countries should move beyond a buyer-seller relationship to a win-win partnership. President Rouhani hoped for closer consultations with India on regional issues, particularly Afghanistan and the challenge of terrorism. Two countries have decided to significantly expand engagements in their overall ties, particularly in oil and gas sectors.
Swaraj, who arrived in Tehran on Saturday, also held talks with her Iranian coungterpart Javad Zarif. Enhancing energy cooperation and development of the Chabahar port dominated the talks. India welcomed the Iranian decision to keep the Farzad-B field outside the auction basket. The two Foreign Ministers agreed that pending agreements such as Preferential Trade Agreement, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Treaty should be concluded on a priority basis. Swaraj also met Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei’s Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati and deliberated on a range of issues. India has been keen on having deeper energy ties with Iran after lifting of nuclear sanctions. India has already lined up 20 billion dollars as investment in oil and gas as well as in petrochemical and fertilizer sectors in Iran.
In the context of the economic partnership between India and Iran, both sides discussed the progress on the Chabahar project. Both sides agreed that the commercial contract on Chabahar as well as the modalities for extending $ 150 million credit for Chabahar Port should be signed in near future. Decisions on this line of credit, as well as $ 400 million credit line for supply of steel rails from India have already been taken by the government.
The External Affairs Minister also visited an Indian Gurudwara and the Kendriya Vidyalaya. She met the members of the small but vibrant Indian community in Tehran and assured them that she would take up issues of concern to them with the Iranian leadership, according to official spokesperson of External Affairs Minister Vikas Swarup.
From Iran, Swaraj left for a two-day trip to Moscow to attend the annual Foreign Ministers’ meeting of RIC (Russia, India and China).
“The (Iran) talks were very successful and would give new energy to our centuries old ties with Iran. In particular, the economic partnership will get considerable fillip as a result of Sunday’s forward looking talks,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
“The Indian side welcomed the Iranian decision to keep the Farzad B field outside the auction basket. The concerned companies have been directed to complete their contractual negotiations in a time bound manner. Iranian side had earlier communicated their gas pricing formula and expressed their desire for Indian investment in the Chabahar SEZ,” he added.
“In terms of connectivity, Iran said it supported India s desire to join the Ashgabat Agreement. The two ministers reviewed the progress made in the International North South Transport Corridor. IRCON from India would be visiting Iran for discussions on the Chabahar Zahedan Railway link,” said the spokesperson.
“They agreed that pending agreements such as Preferential Trade Agreement, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Treaty should be concluded on priority,” said Swarup.