Chabahar, boosting oil import on agenda during Zarif’s India visit

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif calling on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on August 14, 2015.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif calling on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, in New Delhi on August 14, 2015. (Photo PIB)

New Delhi:(IANS) Speedy implementation of the Chabahar port, boosting oil import and terrorism were on the agenda of talks during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif here on Friday. Zarif, who arrived here on a 20-hour visit, met Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Sushma Swaraj raised the issue of nine Indian sailors who are in a jail in Iran for the past two years on charges of smuggling oil.

“I had a good meeting with Foreign Minister of Iran. I raised the issue of nine Indian sailors detained in Iran. I requested him for waiver of USD 2.9 million fine imposed on them and for their early release,” she tweeted after the meeting.

“I have advised our Ambassador designate to Iran Saurabh Kumar to follow this up on priority and secure their release at the earliest.”

When the Iranian minister called on Modi, the prime minister recalled his meeting with President Hassan Rouhani in Ufa, Russia, and said India attached high priority to its relations with Iran.

Modi congratulated Iran for the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 countries and expressed confidence that it would contribute to greater peace and stability in the region.

He conveyed India’s commitment to work with Iran for development of the Chabahar Port, which he said would have far reaching benefit, not only for the people of India and Iran, but also for Afghanistan and the entire Central Asia region.

Both exchanged views on the regional developments, including in Afghanistan, West Asia and South Asia.

Zarif conveyed that Iran considered India its strategic partner and cannot forget the support India extended to Iran during its difficult times.

He said Iran looked forward to working closely in all areas, including connectivity, oil and gas, investments, fertilizers, infrastructure development.

He also extended an invite on behalf of Rouhani to visit Iran. Modi agreed to visit Iran at mutually convenient dates.

During his meeting with Gadkari, the issue of Chabahar port came up. Gadkari had visited Tehran in May to ink an agreement for development of the strategically located port that is set to provide India access to Afghanistan and beyond to Central Asia.

Zarif’s visit was a follow up to the discussions between Modi and Rouhani at Ufa where both sides agreed to significantly upgrade the bilateral relationship, particularly its economic dimension.

During her talks with Zarif, Sushma Swaraj made several forward-looking proposals that will lay the foundation for realizing this vision.

Her proposals included a revamp of the manner in which the Joint Commission will function so that the focus is on energy, infrastructure and trade, said external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

“On energy, the aim is to move from the existing buyer seller relationship to a genuine energy partnership involving both upstream and downstream. We want Iran to regain its share of India’s oil imports and we expect Iran to also make efforts to help promote participation of Indian companies,” he said.

In this context, there was a discussion on Farzad B gas field in the Persian Gulf. OVL had successfully discovered the field and it is our expectation that it will get the opportunity to develop it, he said. Connectivity is also an important part of the economic relationship. “We are at an advanced stage” in two ongoing projects related to Chahbahar and the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), he said. ”

On Chahbahar, we now have to operationalise the intergovernmental MoU signed by Minister Gadkari in May.” On INSTC, both sides acknowledged the need to speed up the process. In fact, the ministerial council meeting of the INSTC is taking place in New Delhi on August 21.

There was a discussion on India participating in the Iranian railways sector, “where we are both price and technology competitive”, he said. To enhance the trade relationship, Sushma Swaraj extended an invitation to the Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia to visit India for the next Joint Commission Meeting which will be held in December. Proposals were also made to move ahead rapidly on a Preferential Trading Agreement, and a Business-to-Business platform.

There were also discussions on regional and multilateral issues, in particular the threat posed by ISIS, and the situation in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. All in all, Zarif’s visit will provide a significant fillip to the strengthening of our long standing ties with Iran, Swarup said.


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