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Modi meets Prez Rouhani, Chabahar Port pact on Iran agenda

By Ammar Zaidi
Last updated on: May 23, 2016 11:52 IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Monday accorded a ceremonial welcome as he met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for talks to deepen trade, investment and energy ties.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Modi, accompanied by President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, inspects the guard of honour during his ceremonial welcome at Saadabad Palace, in Tehran. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Modi, the first prime minister to visit Iran on a bilateral visit in 15 years, was received by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the forecourts of Saadabad Palace -- the seat of executive in Iran.

Military bands played national anthems of the two countries after which Modi inspected guard of honour.

Following this, the two leaders had a 30-minute restricted meeting to discuss bilateral issues of strategic and business importance.

Delegation-level talks followed it, leading to signing of agreements on development of Chahabar port on southern coast of Iran, setting up of an aluminium smelter plant and rail line. 

IMAGE: Prime Minister Modi interacting with school children at Espinas Palace Hotel in Tehran. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

Invoking India's "civilisational ties" with Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in to Tehran on Sunday on a two-day visit, saying his talks with the Iranian leadership would provide him an opportunity to advance the "strategic partnership" between the two countries.

Rouhani will also host a lunch for the Indian Premier. He will also call on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei before his return home.

Ahead of his arrival, Modi in a series of tweets had said, "Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority."

"My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon'ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership," the Prime Minister added.

Modi's visit is expected to see India and the Persian Gulf nation working on enhancing economic partnership that includes a possible deal on developing the strategic Chabahar port.

In an interview to Iran's IRNA news agency before his arrival in Tehran, Modi said the two countries have "always focused to add strength to our relations, even during the difficult times. In the current context, both countries can look to expand our cooperation in the fields of trade, technology, investment and infrastructure and energy security."

Stating that India's public and private sector firms were keen on investing in Iran, he said the signing of agreement on development of Chabahar port will provide wider connectivity.

Chabahar is a port in South-East Iran that will enable India to bypass Pakistan and open up a route to land-locked Afghanistan with which New Delhi has close security ties and economic interests.

"Lifting of the international sanctions against Iran has opened up immense opportunities for both the countries, especially in the economic sphere," Modi said, adding that India is keen to enhance its investment in the Persian Gulf nation and also welcomes flow of capital and investments from there.

The energy sector, he said, was one of the most important dimensions of bilateral economic ties and with investment in development of Farzad-B gas field, the relationship would go beyond the buyer-seller dealings to being genuine partners.

On impending meetings with Iranian leaders, Modi said: "Iran is part of our extended neighbourhood, an important nation in the region and one of India's valuable partners.

"We are connected with each other by the shared history and civilisational ties. We have shared interest in peace, stability and prosperity of the region. Combating the menace of international terrorism and radical ideologies is a common challenge."

He further said taking concrete steps for enhancing regional connectivity is one of the most important and promising dimensions of the ties between India and Iran.

"Building a genuine energy partnership, cooperation in the infrastructure, ports, railway and petrochemicals sectors and developing the age-old civilisational ties through people-to-people exchanges in the modern times will also be a priority," Modi said.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Modi offering prayers at Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha Gurudwara in Tehran. Photograph: Press Information Bureau

On the first day of his trip, Modi -- the first Indian prime minister to travel to Iran in 15 years on a bilateral visit after Atal Bihari Vajpayee -- offered obeisance at the Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha Gurudwara and also spoke to the head priest.

He applauded the efforts of the Sikh community in the Persian Gulf nation for preserving and spreading the culture and tradition of India.

"We accept all the people as our own and absorb them in our society because we believe in the philosophy of 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' -- the entire world is one family. Animated by this spirit, we Indians make every country our home," Modi told the gathering at the gurudwara.

In 2012, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a visit to Tehran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit could not visit the gurudwara, but his wife Gursharan Kaur paid her respects there.

After landing in Tehran, Modi tweeted, "Reached Iran, a land with whom India shares civilisational ties. Hope to enhance economic partnership between our nations. I also hope my Iran visit further cements cultural and people-to-people ties between India and Iran." 

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Ammar Zaidi
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