India, Iran discusses gas pipeline

Tuesday, 27 July 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India and Iran Monday discussed a proposed pipeline to transport Iranian natural gas to India and the North-South Corridor that would open up Central Asia and Europe to Indian exports.

Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, who held delegation-level talks here also discussed steps to further expand bilateral trade that has gone up from $500 million a few years ago to $2.9 billion last year.

During the discussions that continued over a working lunch, the Indian side announced a $200 million credit line to facilitate increased business ties between the private sectors of the two countries.

Kharazzi arrived here Sunday on a two-day visit to establish contact with the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which assumed office in May.

The visit is taking place at a time when Iran is under increasing pressure by US and other western countries over its nuclear programme and is looking for support from regional powers like India.

Officials said though both sides emphasised the importance of the proposed gas pipeline, no decision have been taken on whether it should be overland via Pakistan or undersea.

Although the overland route would be more economical, India has serious concerns about it running through Pakistan given the state of bilateral relations between the neighbours.

External affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said during the talks, Kharrazi sought India's support for the development of the Chahbahar port in Iran.

This also involves building a crucial 130-km-long highway from Zaranj in Iran to Delaram on the arterial Herat-Kabul-Kandahar highway to link Chahabhar with Afghanistan and Central Asia and open up the region to Indian exports.

Sarna said the India-Iran joint commission would meet in Delhi towards the end of this year to consider steps to promote bilateral trade and cooperation in various field including IT and pharmaceuticals.

Source: IANS
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