Focus on Chabahar port project as Sushma Swaraj meets Iranian leaders

Enhancing energy cooperation and development of the Chabahar port were the centerpiece of talks which was mostly dominated by economic issues.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: April 18, 2016 12:26 am
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, welcomes Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, April 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, welcomes Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday. (AP Photo)

Iran President Hassan Rouhani Sunday told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that cooperation on developing the Chabahar port can be a “defining partnership” that has the potential of connecting the entire region, said government officials in New Delhi.

Swaraj, who called on Iran’s President during her visit, stressed that both nations must move “beyond a buyer-seller relationship” to a win-win partnership. Rouhani also invoked the rich cultural ties between Indian and Iran, and called for an enhanced partnership in tourism and people-to-people links.

“He also called for intensified engagement with India in academic, scientific and technological fields. He said Iran can be a reliable partner for India’s energy needs. He hoped for closer consultations with India on regional issues, especially Afghanistan, and the challenge of terrorism,” a government source said.

Swaraj briefed Rouhani on her discussions with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The progress on the Chabahar project was also discussed during the meeting between her and Zarif.

“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 the very 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 Indian government,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

During discussions on energy partnership, Tehran said it would be happy to participate in India’s refinery sector.

“On Farzad – B, both sides took note of the constructive discussions during the recent visit to Iran of Minister of State (Petroleum and Natural Gas) Dharmendra Pradhan. 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. The Iranian side had earlier communicated their gas pricing formula and expressed their desire for Indian investment in the Chabahar SEZ,” Swarup said.

Iran also said it fully supported India’s desire to join the Ashgabat Agreement for connectivity and the two ministers reviewed progress made on the International North South Transport Corridor. On the Chabahar-Zahedan Railway link, Swarup said that railway PSU IRCON will soon send a team to Iran for discussions.

“On trade and investment, the two sides agreed that with the lifting of sanctions, the potential for expanding these ties was immense. They agreed that pending agreements such as preferential trade agreement, double taxation avoidance agreement and bilateral investment treaty should be concluded on priority basis,” he added.

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