|arya||Date: Friday, 31-August-2012, 9:46 AM | Message # 1|
|India, Iran agree to step up economic and trade ties |
Spiritual leader Khamenei turns nostalgic in rare meeting with Manmohan
Raj Chengappa writes from Tehran
In his dealings with Iran’s top leaders, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must have felt like the ancient Greeks who had to navigate between the mythical sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis. As he sat down with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei for a rare one-on-one meeting, the Prime Minister had to strike the right balance between keeping the Iranians, who have their back to the international wall, in good humour and at the same time reassuring the growling Americans that India had not gone soft on Tehran’s nuclear excesses.
The ground for the interaction between Manmohan Singh and Khamenei was set by an hour-long bilateral meeting that the Indian Prime Minister had with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad late this evening on the sidelines of the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Faced with international isolation over its nuclear ambitions, Iran is keen to deepen its economic engagement with India, including increasing sale of oil to Delhi.
So, in their one-hour meeting, both Manmohan Singh and Ahmadinejad went over some of the areas where the two countries could enhance cooperation on the economic and trade front. Manmohan Singh stressed the need to improve the balance of trade between the two countries that is now heavily skewed in Iran’s favour because of India’s oil imports.
Of the total annual trade of $15 billion, India’s exports account hardly for $2.5 billion. Manmohan Singh wanted an improvement in that figure and mentioned that India wanted resumption of wheat exports to Iran that had been stalled over objections of possible fungal disease.
Apart from bilateral cooperation, the two leaders discussed the need for trilateral cooperation with countries having mutual interests. The recent agreement to develop Chabahar as a strategic port to facilitate trade between Iran, Afghanistan and India was cited as an example. Located close to the Pakistan border, Chabahar is the shortest warm water port that would connect India to Afghanistan via Iran and thence on to Central Asia.
Currently, Pakistan allows Afghanistan to send goods via the land route through the Wagah border, but does not allow India to export goods through the same route. With India investing heavily on Afghanistan’s infrastructure, especially roads connecting it to Iran, Chabahar has become a vital link for Indian business to access the landlocked country.
The two leaders discussed the internal situation in Afghanistan and their concerns about the future of the troubled country, especially the menacing presence of the Taliban. The two countries agreed to consult each other regularly on the economic development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
In the 40-minute meeting between Khamenei and Manmohan Singh, the Iranian leader turned nostalgic, citing his admiration for Gandhi and Nehru and how the late Indian Prime Minister played a major role in founding NAM. He talked of the two countries’ cultural and religious ties and lauded India for its progress on the economic front.
Read more/Full article/source - http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20120830/main2.htm