Amid sanctions pressure, Iran to pitch for expanded India ties

May 30th, 2012 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Barely a month before US and EU sanctions against Tehran become operational, Iran will hold talks with India Thursday in a bid to expand economic ties and to seek New Delhi’s support for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit it will host in August.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi touches down here on a two-day visit with a personal invitation from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Tehran for the NAM summit.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will meet Salehi and discuss a host of bilateral and global issues.

Salehi is expected to brief Krishna on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, the Western sanctions and Tehran’s negotiations with the West to end the stalemate.

He is expected to pitch for stronger economic and energy ties with India amid growing Western pressure on New Delhi to scale down its oil imports from Iran.

India currently imports around 10-11 per cent of its oil requirements from Iran and has reduced this marginally as it seeks to diversify its energy sources. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is understood to have taken up the issue of Iranian oil imports with Krishna during her visit to New Delhi May 8.

The US sanctions against Iran’s central bank are scheduled to take effect on June 28 and the European Union’s oil embargo will kick in July 1.

India has, however, made it clear to its Western interlocutors that it will continue to import Iranian oil as this is necessary for its energy security. India has maintained that it will only abide by the UN sanctions and is not bound to accept unilateral sanctions by the US and the European Union.

On Friday, Salehi will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hand over the invite from the Iranian president for visiting Iran for the NAM summit.

Iran will August-end host the 16th summit of the NAM, an international organisation co-founded by India that comprises 118 countries which are not aligned to any power blocs in world politics.

Manmohan Singh has yet to decide on the visit. “We will decide about it after we receive the invite,” the prime minister told reporters Tuesday while returning from Myanmar.

Manmohan Singh has attended the last two NAM summits in Havana and Sharm el-Sheikh. Reliable sources pointed out that if the prime minister decides to skip the visit, it will send a wrong signal about India’s fading commitment to non-alignment it co-founded in 1955.

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