India must utilise post-sanctions Iran opportunities: Zarif

Sushma raises fate of Indian sailors imprisoned in Iran

India must take advantage of new economic opportunities that will arise once sanctions on Iran are lifted, visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said here on Friday.

“India has been a friend of Iran in difficult times, and we don’t forget that,” Mr. Zarif told reporters, referring to India’s rejection of western sanctions on oil imports over the past decades. In particular, Mr. Zarif said India should invest in Iranian infrastructure particularly, railway construction, while Iran would look at oil investments in India as well.

Mr. Zarif is on a “briefing tour” of various countries including Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, India and Russia to discuss the nuclear deal forged with the P-5+EU countries in July, as well as future bilateral relations.

Of particular interest to India is the future of the Farzad B oil fields in the Persian Gulf. “We want Iran to regain its share of India’s oil imports and we expect Iran to also make efforts to help promote participation of Indian companies,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup after Mr. Zarif met with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

“In this context there was a discussion on Farzad B. An Indian company (OVL) had successfully discovered the field and it is our expectation that it will get the opportunity to develop it,” he added. Asked whether Iran would cancel the current auction process for Farzad B in order to accommodate India’s request, Mr. Zarif gave no assurance, saying only that his government “was open to” India developing the oil field. ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp, had in 2008 disitcovered the Farzad-B gas field in its Farsi exploration block in the Persian Gulf.

Chabahar project

Connectivity was another big issue on the agenda, and both sides agreed for the “need to speed up” India’s development of the $100 million Chabahar project, and connections to the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) that will eventually give India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. During the meeting between the Foreign Ministers, India and Iran agreed to discuss all the economic and trade issues during the next Joint Commission meeting in December.

The MEA said the issue of the nine Indian sailors detained in Iran was also raised at the meeting, where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj requested Mr. Zarif for the waiver of the $2.9 million fine imposed on them and for their early release. The nine sailors have been imprisoned in Iran since 2013 after the Iranian government seized their ship on charges they were smuggling oil. “On humanitarian issues, Iran is always ready to help India, and I will do what I can in this matter, also hoping that India will look kindly on Iranians imprisoned in Indian jails,” Mr. Zarif said to reporters on the issue.

The two sides also discussed the regional situation, and particularly talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government that have been held in Pakistan last month. Mr. Zarif said it was necessary that Iran and India work with Afghanistan, and also Pakistan to fight the common threat of Da’esh or the IS in the region. “Everyone has to take note of this threat and Iran can play a constructive role in bringing the region closer together on this,” Mr. Zarif said.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 7:36:02 PM |

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