Monday, 11 December 2017

Swaraj visits Tehran ahead of inauguration of Chabahar Port

Swaraj IRAN

NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday made a previously unannounced stopover at Tehran on her way back from Russia and held a luncheon meeting with her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif, a day before the inauguration of the strategically-important Chabahar port.

Swaraj was returning from the Russian city of Sochi where she attended the annual meet of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The external affairs ministry said Swaraj and Zarif discussed various aspects of India-Iran relations and ways to strengthen these during the meeting, besides exchanging views on regional and global developments of mutual interest.

The meeting came a day before the inauguration of the Chabahar port in Iran by the country’s President Hassan Rouhani. The port will operationalise a new strategic transit route among India, Afghanistan and Iran, bypassing Pakistan.

“Both sides positively reviewed the initiatives undertaken since the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May 2016, including cooperation in Chabahar Port which will be inaugurated by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani tomorrow at presence of ministers from India, Afghanistan and the region,” said the ministry.

The two ministers are understood to have reviewed the implementation of the Chabahar port project in which India is a key partner.

Over a month ago, India had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port in Iran.

The port is likely to ramp up trade among India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi for trade with the two countries.

Besides bilateral issues, Swaraj and Zarif are understood to have deliberated on political developments in the Gulf region.

“Both ministers also exchanged views on regional and global developments of mutual interest,” the external affairs ministry said.

India is looking to increase engagement with Iran by raising oil imports and possible shipments of natural gas and the issue is believed to have figured in the meeting.

Swaraj had paid a bilateral visit to Iran in April last year during which both sides had decided to significantly expand engagement in their overall ties, particularly in boosting Indian investment in joint ventures in oil and gas sectors.

MEA officials said it was a technical stopover and not an unscheduled one.

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