The lifting of sanctions against Iran has set the state for re-energising India-Iran relations, with the two countries stepping up efforts to resolve some issues related to the India-built Chabahar port, a potential game-changer in New Delhi’s quest for direct access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The 13th round of India-Iran Foreign Office Consultations, chaired by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Ebrahim Rahimpour, Iranian Deputy Minister for Asia and Pacific Affairs, on February 4 discussed an entire spectrum of bilateral and regional issues, including security, energy, and connectivity. One can see significant movement in bilateral cooperation in areas of connectivity and energy in months ahead. “Iran is an important economic and security space for us as also amongst most important sources of energy,” Vikas Swarup, India’s external affairs ministry Spokesperson, said after the talks, summing up the essence of discussions. He underscored that after the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, New Delhi was looking at “re-energising” ties with its long-standing partner.
In the wake of the sanctions against Iran and pressure from the West, India had reduced imports from Iran, its second largest oil supplier by cutting down purchases from 21.2 million tonnes in 2009-10 to 11 million tonnes in 2013-14. The imports have been in the same range over the last three years.
Indian firms had been circumspect about investing in Iran due to the sanctions imposed by the US and Europe. The sanctions were deterring New Delhi from claiming rights to invest nearly USD 7 billion in the biggest gas discovery ever made by an Indian firm abroad. However, with the easing of sanctions on Iran, India has once again renewed the pitch for rights to develop 12.8 Trillion cubic feet of gas reserves. The gas discovery took place during ONGC Videsh Ltd’s exploration in 2008.
The Chahabahar port contract is said to be in its final stages of negotiation, with the two countries hoping for an early conclusion of the contract.
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