India-Iran ties: Modi-Rouhani meeting set to scale up India-Iran relations

Setting the stage for enhancing India’s relations with Iran, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first bilateral meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the SCO and BRICS summits in the Russian city of Ufa.

“Advancing a significant partnership,” VikasSwarup, the spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, said in a pithy take on the meeting whose impact is going to be felt in days to come.

The meeting’ timing could not have been better as the nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries is in the final stages. The deal, once concluded, will lift sanctions on Iran imposed by the West in return for Tehran curbing its nuclear programme. This will set the stage for India’s acceleration of economic and energy relations with Iran, which suffered in the wake of onerous Western sanctions.

A deal between Iran and the West would give India significant relief as India would be looking to ramp up oil imports from Tehran and step up its involvement in supporting infrastructure projects in Iran. India and Iran recently reached an agreement on building the Chabahar Port, which could be a game-changer in India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.   With access to the Chabahar port in Iran, India need no longer depend on Pakistan to access Afghanistan and can bypass Pakistan. It would also help boost economic relations between India and Iran.

Given Iran’s leverage over influential ethnic tribes in Afghanistan, the situation in that country discussed prominently in talks between Mr Modi and Mr Rouhani in Russia. The two leaders discussed prospects of collaboration in stabilizing the violence-prone Afghanistan.

In the days ahead, if things go as expected between Iran and the West, the India-Iran partnership could well be one of India’s most significant partnerships in the region since it would give access to newer markets as well as newer routes to connect with the extended neighbourhood.

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