Iran is going through a new era of foreign policy and feels that the military rivalry in the region should change to economic and trade rivalry.
Iran is going through a new era of foreign policy and feels that the military rivalry in the region should change to economic and trade rivalry. The Iranian envoy in New Delhi has expressed hope that trade and economic engagement between India and Iran will grow following the Western sanctions being lifted. India is among a few countries that found ways to trade with the country, including importing crude, despite the Western sanctions. There are four main national and international roads networks that could help in enhancing trade and economic ties between the two sides: Chabahar-Bandar Abbas, Chabahar-Iranshahr-Kerman, Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Mashahd and Chabahar-Iranshahr-Zahedan-Milak (on the Afghanistan border). India has built a 200-km-long road from Nimroz province in Afghanistan to Chabahar, thus fulfilling its end of the trilateral arrangement with Iran and Afghanistan. The Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Dilaram route is in progress with help from the Border Road Organisation which has constructed 213 km of this.
“India can be always part of any big-ticket projects in Iran. The concentration should be on building pipelines, electricity grids, roads, rail roads so that all countries in the region are linked and get to compete in the economic sector,” Gholamreza Ansari, ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to India, tells Huma Siddiqui.
With the sanctions being lifted, how can India and Iran expand their relationship? How critical is connectivity in the region?
Both the countries could work together in mega connectivity projects in the region and we should develop the strategically-located Chabahar port. Iran wants real infrastructure: Rail, road networks, ports and airports. Also, India is keen on expanding its footprints in Afghanistan, the CIS countries and Russia, therefore India needs to expedite its efforts and help create a good rail road network from Chahabar to Zayhand, Bander Abbas — onwards to all countries — Afghanistan, CIS, Turkey. Connectivity gives options to these countries.
There is also the North-South Corridor and India can benefit from it as its goods can reach the Central Asian and European countries sooner. India is an important country. And the Persian Gulf as well as the Sea of Oman regions are of great importance. We both need to strengthen our shipping lines as theses waterways are important to both sides for our economic development and for this, we should also look at military exercises, as the fear of piracy is always looming in these waters. In recent months, we have had some very good meetings with the Indian authorities.
Several delegations from both sides have been exchanged; now we are awaiting visit of a very large economic delegation visiting India soon.
India has a pending crude oil bill to the tune of $6.5 billion. How do you plan to route the payments? Will both the nations able to conduct trade in dollars or would you prefer it to route in rupees?
The rupee is strong now. The Indian government has offered us credit lines and there have been several rounds of meetings between officials from both sides about our assets. We are hoping that the government of India will come out with satisfying options. We are interested in having a long-term relationship with India. For Iran, India is an attractive destination, and as an envoy of my country, I can tell you we can sense that there is a political will on both sides to build a stronger relation.
India’s crude oil imports from Iran has dropped to around 10 million tonne (MT) in the past two years from the levels of as high as 21 MT before Tehran came under sanctions. Are you talking with Indian refiners to increase imports from Iran?
We have opened our market, and if India needs more, they are free to talk to our officials. Discussions are ongoing and it is up to the Indian companies to tell our officials what they want.
Other Middle Eastern and OPEC producers are offering discounts. Is Iran willing to offer discount on crude oil sales to India? If yes, to what extent — in $/barrel?
As an ambassador, I cannot talk about discounts. All I can say is that Iran is a reliable, stable country and we are rich in natural resources, and it is up to countries to make their decisions.
Iran has said that it would put out the Farzad-B gas field on auction. But the fact is ONGC Videsh discovered the field and should be given the rights. India has already proposed an agreement to Tehran. Will you give the rights to ONGC Videsh or auction the field?
For a long time, India has been talking about Farzad -B. I am hoping that the Indian side would be able to convince the Iranian side not to put this on auction. This discussion has been going on for long. In fact, the Iranian oil minister was here and made unbelievable offers to India. But there has been no response from India. Iran is becoming more competitive and situations are changing. So whatever decisions the Indian companies want to make, they should do it fast.
Is it correct that the Iranian government has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state visit and has he accepted the invitation?
Yes, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pay a state visit to Iran and he has graciously accepted the same. We are waiting to receive the Prime Minister in Iran. This visit will be a milestone in the bilateral relations between Iran and India and will benefit not only these two countries but the region as well.