Pipeline to dominate India-Iran talks Tuesday

April 28th, 2008 - 3:48 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) India and Iran will hold talks Tuesday to push an ambitious $7.5-billion tri-nation pipeline that also goes through Pakistan when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes here on his first visit seeking to re-energize drifting ties between the two countries. Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Islamabad Monday on the first leg of his three-nation whirlwind tour, will come here on a working visit lasting six hours Tuesday after a state visit to Sri Lanka.

This will be Ahmadinejad’s first visit to India after he came to power in Tehran in August 2005 and only second visit by an Iranian president since Mohammad Khatami came here in 2003.

In his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Iranian president will focus on giving an added momentum to the long-delayed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project, according to Iranian news agencies.

The project was floundering till the oil ministers of India and Pakistan last week agreed to sign a bilateral agreement on the pipeline that is hailed as a symbol of peace and prosperity entwining three countries.

The Iranian leader will also hold talks with President Pratibha Patil on a wide range of bilateral and global issues.

Manmohan Singh, on his part, is likely to assure Iran that despite India’s vote against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) first in September 2005 and then in February 2006, the millennia-old ties between the two countries are not hostage to the whims of any third country.

To underline this point, New Delhi recently told off Washington for offering gratuitous “guidance” on its Iran relations, saying it was for the IAEA to determine the nature of the Iranian nuclear programme and not for any individual country.

India has consistently advocated dialogue and negotiations to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff with the West and defended Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy while asking Tehran to comply with its international obligations.

The talks between the two leaders will, however, focus on building a durable energy partnership revolving around the pipeline and a $25 billion deal under which Iran will supply 5 million tonnes of LNG annually to India.

India and Pakistan have agreed to start work on constructing the nearly 2,600 km pipeline by 2010.

The India-Pakistan talks set the stage for the visit of the Iranian president who has thrown his political weight behind the project, which is being opposed by the US on grounds that it will bring India and Iran closer to each other and defeat its efforts to isolate Tehran over its suspected nuclear programme.

Ahead of his visit to Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Hosseini Sunday struck an upbeat note on the pipeline, saying “reaching an agreement on the project will be possible” in the light of the India-Pakistan talks.

Other areas of cooperation and shared interests like the stability in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and common economic and strategic interests in Central Asia, where both countries are observers at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), will also be on the table, official sources said.

India and Iran have concluded talks to construct a rail link between Chabahar (in southeastern Iran) and the Iranian port of Fahraj.

The two countries are also planning to collaborate in developing a North-South rail corridor connecting India and Iran to Russia.

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