President Hassan Rouhani says Iran and India have decided to expand and upgrade their ties from mere trade partners.“The two countries’ economic relations could be much broader than the past, and today the administrative officials of the two countries decided that the bilateral ties turn into comprehensive economic relations from mutual trade ties,” Rouhani said in a joint press conference with visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
Heading a high-ranking delegation, Modi arrived in the Iranian capital on Sunday. The Indian prime minister was accorded an official welcome in Tehran at the start of a two-day visit to make a case for India’s space in Iran’s market following the lifting of sanctions.
Modi is the first Indian prime minister in Iran in the last 15 years on a visit which will mainly focus on connectivity, infrastructure, energy partnership and bilateral trade.
President Rouhani said Modi’s visit has prepared the ground for the further enhancement of economic ties between Iran and India following the implementation of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group and the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic republic.
“Iran-India relations have always been of significance and today these ties can serve the interests of the two nations and the whole region,” said Rouhani.
According to the Iranian president, Tehran and New Delhi have discussed cooperation in banking systems as well as bio-technology, nano-technology and aerospace.
Rouhani further said terrorism was a big challenge in the region and that India and Iran will also expand intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism.
Modi, for his part, praised Iran’s strategic role in fighting terrorism and in establishing stability in the region, calling for more cooperation to build a world free of violence.
Prior to the joint press conference, Iranian and Indian ministers signed 12 cooperation agreements, including an agreement to develop the southern Iranian port of Chabahar.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also arrived in Tehran on Monday to join Rouhani and Modi in signing a trilateral agreement.
Chabahar is located in the Gulf of Oman on the border with Pakistan. It is Iran’s closest and best access point to the Indian Ocean.
The port will be a game changer for regional connectivity, especially for Afghanistan, which can find an assured and reliable alternative access to India via sea.
The route will also significantly enhance prospects for India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond through synergies with other initiatives touching the region such as North-South transport corridor.
India is one of the biggest clients of Iranian crude. Ahead of Modi’s visit, reports said India had made the first euro payments to Iran in four years to clear part of its $6.4-billion oil debt to Tehran.
Overall, India’s crude oil imports from Iran have topped 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), reaching the highest level in at least five years.
“Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority,” Modi wrote on his Twitter account on the eve of his visit.
Modi is expected to meet Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei later in the day.
“My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon’ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership,” the Indian prime minister wrote.
“India and Iran enjoy civilizational ties and have shared interest in the peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region,” he added.
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