India, Iran discusses strategy in Afghanistan, Chabahar port

Regional strategy in Afghanistan and crucial bilateral issues, including expansion of Chabahar port in Iran figured in the meetings Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohd Ali Fathollahi had with the Indian leadership here on Friday.

Last Updated: Aug 06, 2010, 20:15 PM IST

New Delhi: Regional strategy in Afghanistan
and crucial bilateral issues, including expansion of Chabahar
port in Iran figured very high in the meetings Iranian Deputy
Foreign Minister Mohd Ali Fathollahi had with the Indian
leadership here on Friday.

The visiting minister also allayed the fears of any
"drastic impact" on its trade ties with Asian countries,
including India, due to recent sanctions imposed by the UN and
the US.
Though the minister admitted that both Iran and India
share a "close" view point on the situation in Afghanistan, he
appeared to be dismissive of the recent reports by `wikileaks`
based on US military documents showing Pakistan?s ISI?s
support for the Taliban.

"We have suspicion on these documents because the issues
raised in these documents are not new-borns.....We believe
raising these issues at this very specific time, we believe
special objectives and goals are being followed in order to
create an atmosphere," he told reporters after his meeting
with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Deputy
Perneet Kaur.

Fathollahi`s visit is the second ministerial trip from
Iran to India in less than a month and follows the July 9
joint commission meeting where two countries had extensively
reviewed ties in strategic areas such as counter-terrorism,
economic and joint projects in the region and inked six pacts.

The Iranian minister, who is here on a three-day visit
since Wednesday, said that during his meetings, various
issues, which had been discussed during the joint commission,
were also followed up.

Emphasising that both Iran and India should work towards
stablising and empowering Afghanistan government, he
reiterated his country`s position that "heavy presence" of
Western forces in the war-torn country was not the solution.
Asked when the Chabahar port will become functional, the
minister said soon there will be some "fundamental changes"
and made a strong pitch for funds for the port`s development
that could deepen India?s outreach in both Afghanistan and
Central Asia.

He said that at present the port, with two active
harbours, was functional and had a capacity of only 2.5
million tonnes but the target was 12 million tonnes per year
and this could be achieved as soon as the funds start coming
in.

Fathollahi also allayed the apprehension of any "drastic
impact" of the sanctions imposed by the US on Iran recently,
saying in the last 30 years, since the Islamic revolution in
his country, America has been imposing these punitive measures
and it was time they should realise the result of the curbs.

The US has been going around telling countries to
downgrade their ties with Tehran in every sphere but there
will be no drastic impact on economic ties between Iran and
Asian countries, including India.

He said that during his meetings, the two sides talked
about ways to enhance trade and economic ties between India
and Iran, which stand at about USD 15 billion at present.

India and Iran also talked about ways to enhance energy
cooperation. India has been maintaining that there was
"natural complementarity between the needs of energy-hungry
India", which hopes to grow at a rate of 8-10 per cent in the
coming years, and Iran which was home to third largest proven
oil reserves and second largest gas reserves.

PTI