New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) In a significant development, Iran on Sunday said it will be happy to partner India in the refinery sector.
The Iranian offer came during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif in Tehran, an official said.
“Both sides discussed the energy partnership between India and Iran,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup informed the media.
“Iran said it would be happy to participate in the refinery sector in India,” he said.
This is significant given that Sushma Swaraj’s four-day ongoing visit to Iran comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, India’s biggest oil supplier, earlier this month amidst speculation that it might impact New Delhi’s traditional ties with Tehran and the deteriorating ties between the Gulf rivals, especially after the execution of a Shia cleric by Riyadh’s Sunni rulers in January this year.
The execution of Nimr Al-Nimr, a Saudi national and a Shia cleric in January this year, created a volatile situation in the Middle East with the Saudi missions in Iran coming under attack and Riyadh cutting off diplomatic ties with Shia-majority Tehran.
The Indian minister’s visit comes in the wake of the lifting of UN-sponsored sanctions on the Gulf nation for its nuclear programme.
Swarup said that on the Farzad B gas field, both sides took note of the constructive discussions held during the recent visit to Iran of Minister of State for Petroleum 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 (special economic zone),” the spokesman stated.
Iran also said it fully supported India’s desire to join the Ashgabat Agreement.
The Ashgabat Agreement has Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as its founding members. Kazakhstan also joined this arrangement later.
Accession to the agreement would enable India to utilise this existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interaction with the Eurasian region
Sushma Swaraj and Zarif also reviewed the progress made in the International North South Transport Corridor.
India’s IRCON will visit Iran for discussions on the Chabahar-Zahedan railway link, according to Swarup.
“On trade and investment, the two sides agreed that with the lifting of sanctions, the potential for expanding these ties was immense,” he said.
“They agreed that pending agreements such as Preferential Trade Agreement, Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and Bilateral Investment Treaty should be concluded on a priority basis.”
India and Iran also expressed satisfaction at the release of fishermen and sailors from each other’s jails.
Given the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), “both sides took note of the good cooperation between the National Security Council structures of the two countries and agreed to intensify this engagement”, Swarup said.
“In terms of cultural cooperation, given the civilisational links between India and Iran, both sides agreed to promote and strengthen the existing cultural exchanges, inter-alia, by observing Weeks of Iran and India in each other’s country, publication of manuscripts, organising conferences and events related to language, literature and religion,” he said.
In another notable development, Iran also agreed to positively consider the establishment of a Hindi chair in Tehran University sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
The two ministers also reviewed global and regional issues, in particular the situation in Afghanistan.