Iran seeks greater Indian investment

Friday, 24 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Iran is seeking more Indian participation in industrial and infrastructure projects, including the North-South Transport Corridor.

"Iran has new investment laws in place to facilitate foreign investment," Mohammed Taheri, ambassador- designate director general for economic affairs in the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told IANS here Friday.

"We see good scope for Indian collaboration in the field of oil and gas, chemicals and automobiles, besides enhancing traditional trade between the two countries and with third countries."

Taheri is leading a 65-member business delegation to India ahead of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's visit.

He described the visit of Khatami, who will be the chief guest at India's 54th Republic Day celebrations on January 26, as symbolic of close bilateral ties.

Taheri said the Iranian president would be accompanied by the ministers of commerce and foreign affairs, senior government officials and the head of the Iranian chamber of commerce.

With the likelihood of a commitment by India on a proposed gas pipeline from Iran, the Iranian petroleum minister will also be coming.

Taheri indicated that in addition to gas supply through a possible multibillion-dollar Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, Iran is also studying a possible joint venture with India for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Persian Gulf coast.

"With Iran opening up the power sector for privatisation, we are keen on Indian participation in power generation. We would also like to utilise India's expertise in the fields of airport, aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and other fields to upgrade Iranian technical capability," said Taheri.

Taheri expressed hope that bilateral trade would grow to at least $1 billion in the next few years in view of the strategic North-South Transport Corridor being promoted by Iran jointly with India and Russia.

"The multi-modal transport corridor is very important for promoting trade as it's one of the most economic ways for India to reach out to countries in Central Asia and Russia.

"India and Iran can also work together for promoting trade to third countries and undertake joint venture projects in countries like Russia, reconstruction work in Afghanistan, Iraq and other regions," he said.

From $159 million worth of Indian exports to Iran in 1998-99, the volume rose to $255 million in 2001-02. During the same period, however, there had been a decline in Indian imports from $475 million to $288 million.

"Indian companies can explore the opportunity provided by this transport corridor to enter into joint ventures with Iranian companies for value addition in Iran for exports to third countries.

"Tea is one commodity that offers tremendous scope for processing in Tehran for export to Russia and Afghanistan," said Taheri.

India, Iran and Russia had entered into a trilateral agreement in September 2000 to develop this transport corridor to facilitate goods movement and later passenger movement.

While the project is still taking shape, with support infrastructure being built up in Iran and Russia, the movement of goods is steadily increasing, with the route offering around 40 percent saving in time and cost.

The route links Mumbai in India with Iran's Bandar Abbas Port and from there by rail and road network to the northern Iran ports of Anzali and Amirabad on the Caspian Sea. A sea link from there connects to the Russian ports of Astrakhan and Lagan.

Iranian Commercial Counsellor Mohammed Reza Dolatabadi disclosed that several countries, including those of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Oman, had expressed a desire to join the transport corridor project as it offers them an economically viable means of reaching wider markets.

"Around eight countries have expressed desire to join the project. While Iran has approved the proposals from a couple of countries like Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, we are still awaiting approval from India and Russia," Dolatabadi said.
Source: IANS
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