Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, had an engaging meeting with the latter during which they discussed a host of issues, including Afghanistan and West Asia.
Dr Singh accepted, in principle. the invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to visit Iran.
The dates for the visit will be decided by the two sides after diplomatic consultations. This was the first meeting between the two leaders after a long time and they reviewed bilateral relations, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters while briefing them about the meeting.
Ahead of that, Lok Sabha Speaker Meera Kumar will visit Tehran.
On the issue of India's reconstruction role in Afghanistan, Ahmadinejad supported New Delhi's role and told Dr Singh that he felt that there is need for more regular exchanges on the situation in Kabul.
The two leaders agreed that the dispensation in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led.
Surprisingly, there was no talk between the two leaders on the contentious issue of Iranian pipeline through Pakistan to India that has been widely reported to be in the offing during the meeting in the Indian media.
"The emphasis was entirely on bilateral issues," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said.
However, the two sides discussed a host of other issues, including potential cooperation in the field of hydrocarbons.
Would the divergence of opinions between India and the United States regarding Iran and the Middle East, especially on the issue of Palestine, impact Indo-US relation negatively given that India has met with Iranian President and has always been supportive of the cause of Palestine?
To that question Mathai replied in the negative.
The foreign secretary said that India is working to have a bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "It is not fixed as yet but we are working on it,' Mathai said.
Sources said that India's foreign policy is independent and does not influence each other country. "The kind of foreign policy we pursue does not influence the other,' the sources said.
If Dr Singh visits Iran, it will be the first Prime Ministerial visit after 10 years when former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a trip to Tehran in 2001. There have been visits at other levels over the years between the two countries.
The meeting also decided the Joint Economic Commission between the two sides will be meeting soon to be co-chaired by the Foreign Minister of Iran.
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds talks with Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com