India set to ramp up engagement with Tehran

NEW DELHI (TIP): India is reopening its engagement with Tehran even as a game-changing nuclear deal between Iran and world powers looks potentially around the corner. After Nitin Gadkari’s visit to the Iranian capital in May to sign an MOU on the Chahbahar port, foreign secretary S Jaishankar will be in Tehran on Saturday for political consultations.

While India had reduced its oil imports from Iran during the US sanctions, it will be keen to restart the trade relationship as well as push the Iranian leadership to expedite the necessary clearances for building the Chahbahar port. India has even set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) India Ports Global, to handle the port project.

India would want to revive its oil interests in Iran as well. India, Afghanistan and Iran have signed a transit agreement, and India is keen to build the connections through Iran into Afghanistan and central Asia. The port and its attendant railway lines, once built, would give India an alternative to Pakistan’s Karachi port.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has already said she would be visiting Iran in the coming weeks for bilateral and NAM consultations. After engaging its immediate neighbourhood and east Asia, the Indian government is working on the Connect Central Asia project.

Prime Minister Modi will be visiting all the five “Stans” during his trip to Ufa, Russia for the BRICS summit.

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