Ahmadinejad hosts banquet for Manmohan Singh

India and Iran, at two high-level meetings on the eve of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, resolved to step up economic ties, especially in stabilising Afghanistan and shoring up Indian exports, which have suffered an imbalance with respect to Iranian exports of oil by a factor of five.

In the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — which preceded Dr. Singh calling on Iranian Supreme Leader Syed Ali Khamenei, the first such interaction between an Indian Prime Minister and the Iranian supremo in over a decade — both sides also resolved to maintain high-level engagements by agreeing to hold the next meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission at the Foreign-Minister level in November, said government sources.

The sources pointed to the importance both countries attached to more intimate bilateral ties by referring to the banquet hosted for Dr. Singh by Mr. Ahmadinejad later in the evening though the Iranian leader as the host of the NAM summit “had so much else to do.”

Both leaders also agreed to facilitate trilateral and bilateral cooperation on the Iranian port of Chah Bahar, which could serve as an important port for trade and transit to Afghanistan and Central Asia. They agreed on the need for regular consultations on economic reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, said the sources.

They also discussed the nuclear issue and India expressed the hope for progress on the P5+1 Dialogue. Dr. Singh hoped that recent negotiations would yield positive result in the interest of peace and security in the region.

Combating terrorism

Dr. Singh and Mr. Ahmadinejad also exchanged views on various regional and international issues, particularly developments in Afghanistan, Syria and West Asia. In this respect, they emphasised the need for international cooperation to effectively combat the scourge of terrorism, which poses a grave threat to peace and security in the region.

They also agreed that they were on the right track in focussing on enhancing economic and trade relations with Dr. Singh raising the issue of the need for Iran to import more from India and to address the trade imbalance.

In this regard, resumption of exports of Indian wheat to Iran was stressed.

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