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Manmohan’s visit to Iran may be discussed

India and Iran will discuss the prospects of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Tehran in February next during Iranian Foreign Minister Monouchehr Mottaki’s visit to India this month, diplomatic sources here say.

The last prime ministerial visit was made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee eight years ago.

Mr. Mottaki will arrive with a revised proposal for the Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline. He will also discuss greater cooperation in the strategic and economic spheres. With economists certain that the submarine pipeline is three times as expensive as the land route, Mr. Mottaki will address India’s concerns about the pipeline’s transit costs, assured supplies and security.

More importantly, he will put forward a revised Iranian proposal, framed after the two countries discussed the issue at a recent meeting in Shanghai attended by Petroleum Minister Murli Deora and an Iranian Vice-President.

Iran acknowledges the importance of the pipeline’s security in India’s calculation but feels the three countries should resolve all issues and come to an in-principle decision to evacuate gas eastwards towards India and Pakistan as early as possible, the sources say.

As India has completed the road from the Iranian border to Afghanistan’s ring road, the issue of capacity augmentation of Iran’s Chabar port and a rail connection from there to the Afghan border town of Zaranj will also be discussed. Political difficulties and differences between the two countries had delayed the port expansion project, which was initially allocated to the Essar Group.

In the absence of an alternate route through Pakistan, the port expansion and the laying of a rail link will drastically cut the time for goods shipment to the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.

As in the case of the Chabar port expansion, the talks on other areas of economic cooperation are also making slow progress. These include a joint venture with the Hinduja Group for setting up a refinery, a steel factory in southern Iran and gas exploration by an Indian consortium in the South Pars field.

Besides exploring the prospects of the Chabar-Zaranj-Delaram route, both sides are expected to discuss another route from the same port through Kerman for faster transportation of goods to Russia and Europe.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 12:39:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Manmohanrsquos-visit-to-Iran-may-be-discussed/article16890958.ece

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