EghtesadOnline: New Delhi must work with the government of President Hassan Rouhani to ensure that bilateral irritants in fostering economic ties between the two nations are resolved soon, reads an article published by the US-based think-tank Eurasia Review. According to Financial Tribune, excerpts follow:
In a clear indication of how important Iran is in the Indian foreign policy matrix, Prime Minister Narendra Modi deputed Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari as his special envoy to represent India at the inaugural ceremony of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term on 5 August.
In Iran, Gadkari underlined that once Chabahar Port in Iran, which India is developing, becomes operational, there will be no looking back as it will be a gateway to golden opportunities.
However, the slow pace of the project has irked the Iranians who have indicated that despite India developing the project, it will not be exclusive to the country, and Pakistan and China might also be invited to get involved.
For India, this undercuts the very strategic utility of Chabahar Port, viewed as India’s answer to Gwadar Port in Pakistan, allowing India to circumvent Pakistan and open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan.
Gadkari’s visit is, therefore, timely as it reaffirmed India’s commitment to the Chabahar project. Gadkari said the operationalization of the port will not accelerate infrastructure projects but will be a “win-win situation” for the nations, as it would give a tremendous boost to trade and offer vast opportunities to investors.
Gadkari said: “Chabahar will not only boost ties between Iran and India but we will be closer to Afghanistan and then Russia … We can export goods till Russia. This will be a direct route.”
The visit is also an important signal that India remains committed to strong ties with Iran, despite a series of recent setbacks.
What should be of concern to New Delhi and Tehran is the decline in economic ties between the two countries in recent months.
Iran seems to be in no hurry to decide on the contract for gas exploration in its Farzad B offshore field to ONGC Videsh, and India too has decided to decrease the volume of Iranian crude oil it will be buying this year, pending the decision on the contract.
There have been some suggestions that an initial agreement with Russian giant Gazprom for the gas field has been signed by Iran. For India, which stood by Iran during the height of its global isolation, this is certainly galling.
New Delhi needs to work with the Rouhani government in Tehran to ensure that the bilateral irritants in fostering economic ties between the two nations are resolved soon. After all, there are far too many issues, including the future of Afghanistan, which require closer coordination between the two. Gadkari’s visit is an important marker in that direction.