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Dr Singh may meet Iran's Ahmadinejad in New York

September 21, 2011 11:47 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to meet Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the 66th session of United Nations General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad, who is attending the UNGA session for the seventh time, and is well known for his anti-American and anti-West stance, has been facing a hostile reception from human rights activists ever since he arrived in New York earlier this week.
In fact, leading Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Tuesday asked US President Barack Obama to stop Ahmadinejad from attending the meet.

Irrespective of all the criticism that he is facing in America, Ahmadinejad's meeting with Dr Singh looks almost certain, sources have revealed.

Issues like the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, which has more or less been abandoned by India on grounds of security and pricing, are likely to figure in the bilateral interaction. Iran is still keen that India joins the project.

India is helping develop the Chabahar Port, which will give it access to the oil and gas resources in Iran and the Central Asian states. By so doing, India hopes to compete with the Chinese, who are building Gwadar Port, in Pakistan's Balochistan province.

India is also helping Iran to construct the Chabahar-Milak road leading to the Zaranj-Dilaram route in Afghanistan. The project includes the construction of a bridge on the route to Zaranj.

India's Border Roads Organisation is laying the 213-kilometer-long Zaranj-Dilaram road as part of a 750 million dollar aid package to Afghanistan.

It hopes to use this route for capacity augmentation of Iran's Chabahar Port. A rail connection from there to the Afghan border town of Zaranj is also likely to be discussed.

The deteriorating situation in the AfPak region and drawdown of NATO-led foreign forces from Afghanistan could also figure in the talks.

India, Iran, China, Russia and some Central Asian nations have been holding informal talks on forming for a joint mechanism for Afghanistan once the withdrawal of foreign forces in Afghanistan is complete.

Ever since India and the United States inked the civil nuclear cooperation agreement in July 2005 and ratified it March 2006 during President Bush's visit, New Delhi's relations with Tehran have witnessed a slide downward.

In the last five years, India has voted thrice against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- in November 2009, February 2006 and September 2005.

In  November 2010, The UN General Assembly committee that deals with human rights issues adopted separate resolutions that condemned human rights violations in Iran, Burma and North Korea.

While the US voted 'yes' for passing the stricture against on all three countries, India voted "no" for Burma, and abstained from voting against Iran and North Korea.

While India believes that Iran's nuclear ambitions are not in the interests of regional stability, it has been consistent in advocating dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the issue. It has also taken a strong position against passing sanctions against Iran.

India has consistently said that as a signatory to the nuclear non proliferation, Iran has a right to pursue its nuclear programme for peaceful purposes.

India, which is largely dependent on Iran for its energy requirements, has been trying to mend ties with that country. After all ,oil accounts for 75 percent of India-Iran trade.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon had visited Iran recently, but  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Tehran is long overdue.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Iran in April 2001. Dr Singh and Ahmadinejad last met in New Delhi in 2008.

Besides meeting Ahmadinejad, Dr Singh is also expected to have bilateral talks with the heads of state of  Japan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and South Sudan.
Naveen Kapoor in New Delhi
Source: ANI