Iran proposes joint investment, new oil contract to India

Tehran, May 4 (IANS) Iran Saturday proposed to India joint investments and a production sharing contract for oil exploration as the two countries agreed to expand cooperation in the transport – especially cargo transit from Chabahar port to Afghanistan and energy sectors and building the North-South corridor linking Russia.

Meeting under the aegis of the Iran-India Joint Economic Commission, the two sides agreed to work on a trilateral transit pact involving India, Iran and Afghanistan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the abundant commonalities and cultural affinity between the two countries served a solid base for joint investment.

He said Iran was ready to expand cooperation with India in the fields of agriculture, industry, telecommunications and education on bilateral, multilateral and regional levels.

The oil offer is significant as Iran is hit by US and European sanctions. It has so far been offering service contracts to foreign companies, allowing a fixed fee for exploring and producing oil. The contours of the production sharing proposal was not immediately clear, but is believed to envisage possible ownership of the oil explored and produced by firms and the freedom to ship it wherever they like.

India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid reiterated India’s decision to participate in the upgrade of Chahbahar port. The secretary in the shipping ministry would travel to Tehran soon for negotiations on costs and other issues.

The Chahbahar port, surrounded by a free trade zone, is critical for India as Pakistan does not allow transit facilities to Afghanistan.

The Iranians said the Chahbahar project was important not only for their country and Afghanistan, but also for Central Asia.

Khurshid called for more contacts between the private sectors in the two countries as well as academic and educational cooperation.

The two countries discussed ways to enhance two-way trade and people-to-people contact, liberalising the visa regime. It was felt that the volume of trade did not reflect the close relations between the two countries and identified agriculture and pharma products and aeronautics the areas where cooperation could be stepped up.

“We are determined to explore and use all capacities for economic cooperation and that Tehran-New Delhi joint economic commission is of high importance for preparation of the ground, removal of impediments and follow up the agreements already reached,” the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Khurshid as saying.

Iran and India also reviewed the North-South corridor which will link Russia with Iran, with Khurshid saying that all hurdles should be resolved.

Both sides also discussed the security situation in Afghanistan and agreed to remain in regular contact.

Iran’s controversial nuclear programme also came up during the meeting and Salehi said talks with P5+1 would resume this year.

On Syria, both countries asked all sides involved in the conflict to abjure violence and supported the Geneva Communique which includes the 6-Point Plan of Kofi Annan and welcomed the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Khurshid also called on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and met Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Majlish speaker Ali Larijani.

Khurshid Friday had inaugurated the Indian Cultural Centre in the Iranian capital.

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