India set to scale up ties with Iran; joint exploration on cards

Last Updated: Monday, May 6, 2013 - 17:10

On Board Special Plane: Notwithstanding sanctions against Iran, India is set to scale up economic and commercial engagement with it with proposals for joint investment in infrastructure and joint exploration of oil high on the agenda.

These proposals are besides India`s decision to participate in the upgradation of strategically-crucial Chahbahar port of Iran, which will give access to Afghanistan.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said Iran had offered joint exploration and Production Sharing Agreement in an oil block which will be pursued.

In this regard, the Iranian Oil Minister will be visiting in India shortly.

"We are willing to do joint investment for them in Iran or in India. That is not a problem," he told PTI in an interview while returning home after winding up a three-day visit to Iran during which he held talks on a broad range of subjects.

Giving examples, Khurshid said India has strategic interest in energy security. "If we have a joint investment, we give greater confidence to each other and then we get the best," he said.

During Khurshid`s talks with his counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi under the framework of Joint Commission on Saturday, the Iranian side offered Production Sharing Agreement on exploration of a major oil block in the energy-rich country.

"We have an offer...The offer is to participate in one of their oil fields... And we must now respond," he said, adding Iran is keen to pursue this offer which is reflected by their decision to send the Oil Minister here.

"If the Oil Minister is coming to India, that means he is serious. He is pursuing this," Khurshid said.

Iran is under sanctions of the UN, the US and the 28-nation European Union over its nuclear programme. India has maintained that while it will adhere to the UN sanctions, it is under no obligation to apply the sanctions of individual countries or groupings.

Khurshid, who conveyed to Iran the decision about India`s participation in upgradation of Chahbahar port, made it clear that New Delhi will not switch off its age-old relations with Tehran just because of sanctions.

The Chahbahar port upgradation, which will be undertaken in three phases over the next few years, is crucial for India`s access to Afghanistan, particularly when Pakistan is denying transit facility to it.

While talking about the prospects of cooperation with the Persian Gulf nation, the External Affairs Minister said the Indian business community needs to be given confidence regarding areas which are not affected by the sanctions and the government will do "some hand-holding" in this regard.

"Clearly, as far as India is concerned, Indian enterprise is concerned they would want to be sure that they will not be bitten by the sanctions.

"We need to create more confidence. We need to show which are the areas which the sanctions cannot bite. And if sanctions issue is going to arise, what are the consequences, etc. The government has to do some hand-holding and we will do that," he said.

Khurshid said India`s exports to Iran could be diversified and expanded to particularly cover pharmaceuticals and agriculture products which could also help address the issue of payments.

PTI



First Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 - 16:55

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