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India and Iran on Saturday inked nine agreements and committed to early completion of the Chabahar port. They decided to find convergence in their views on the issue of terrorism and resolved to improve trade and energy ties.
Apart from these official agreements, four others were signed between industry chambers of the two countries on the sidelines. The highlight was Tehran leasing operational control of Shahid Beheshti port for 18 months to New Delhi, which is the phase one of the Chabahar port. The Chabahar port, a mere 90-km from China-controlled Gwadar port in Pakistan, is of strategic importance since it creates a transit route between Iran, Afghanistan and India.
The two countries also signed agreements for avoiding double taxation, for cooperation in health and medicine and agriculture, and set up a framework for cooperation on the issue of anti-dumping and countervailing duty.
The countries also decided to explore cooperation in defence and maritime sector. A plan was made to establish a committee to look into Rupee-Rial trade, speed up negotiations on Indian investments in the Farzad B-gas field and Iranian Pasargadbank to open a branch in India. In the context of India-Iran-Afghanistan connectivity, India will assist in construction of Chabahar-Zahedan rail line, while Iran said it would make efforts to include Chabahar port in the International North-South Transport Corridor, which would allow India a shorter transit route to European markets.
“The transit ties between the two countries (India and Iran) will create multilateral and regional capacities in cooperation with the regional states, and we are ready for trilateral and multilateral contracts so that Chabahar port will turn into a strategic route to consolidate regional ties.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a joint media conference.
He said Tehran could meet India’s energy needs, and that Indian companies could partner in Iran’s energy sector, desalination of water, solar energy and agricultural projects as well as in construction of IT parks.
A joint statement that was released after the Rouhani-Modi meeting said, if India supported the Iran nuclear deal, Iran will echo India’s call for a reform in the UN Security Council. Indian officials said during the delegation level talks, the issue of Pakistan-abetted terrorism was raised. The joint statement didn’t specifically mention Pakistan but “urged an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and individuals”. It said “States that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism should be condemned.”
Delivering a lecture later in the day at the Observer Research Foundation, Rouhani criticised the Donald Trump administration’s threat to re-impose sanctions on Iran. He said the US was behaving like a businessman used to haggling, but it should realise that haggling doesn’t always work. Rouhani also said the ISIS was a “great instrument” for the US to “play” with on the world stage for a “long time”.
Rouhani concluded his three day visit in the evening. His visit comes on the heels of Modi government’s West Asia outreach, with New Delhi hosting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in January and the PM travelling to Jordan, Palestine, the UAE and Oman earlier this month.
The PM expressed the willingness of the Indian companies to invest in Iran’s oil and gas sector. “We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilised,” Modi said. “We want to expand connectivity, cooperation in the energy sector and the centuries-old bilateral relationship.”
The two leaders also deliberated on the regional situation during wide-ranging talks, with both asserting that there was a need for a peaceful, stable, prosperous and a pluralistic Afghanistan.