‘Modi’s Iran visit will be a milestone in bilateral relations’

Stanly Johny Chennai | Updated on January 23, 2018

Gholamreza Ansari, Iran’s Ambassador to India

India is an important country and can, and should, play a greater role in West Asia, the Persian Gulf as well as the Sea of Oman regions.

Gholamreza Ansari has been Iran’s Ambassador to India since December 2012. A seasoned diplomat, Ansari had represented the Islamic Republic in Moscow and London earlier, and served at key positions at Iran’s foreign ministry. In an email interview with BusinessLine, he talks about the nuclear framework agreement recently reached between Iran and six world powers, its impact on Iran-India relations and New Delhi’s role in West Asia. Edited excerpts:

Q: There are conflicting interpretations of the framework nuclear agreement. Both the US and France have issued their fact sheets about the deal, and the Iranian foreign ministry has protested against the US fact sheet. How do you think Iran is going to tackle these differences while drafting the final comprehensive agreement?

A: What has been discussed so far between Iran and the P 5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) countries was in the form of a press statement. Such differences seem to be natural and everything is supposed to be sorted out through negotiations. We have three months time for that and it is hoped that the negotiating parties would be successful in drafting the final comprehensive agreement to their satisfaction.

Q: India and Iran have traditionally shared good ties. But bilateral trade was affected in recent years in the wake of global sanctions on Iran. Now, do you think the nuclear deal would have an immediate impact on India – Iran ties? India’s commerce secretary was in Tehran last week.

A: Yes, India and Iran have traditionally shared good ties. They share a lot of cultural and political common interests. Trade has always been good between them. These ties were obviously affected in recent years. But in spite of all the difficulties the trade between Iran and India during these years stood at $15 billion, which is quiet a considerable amount. The recent period has taught us many good lessons. It has shown us the importance of doing business with the neighboring and regional countries. I hope that in the new environment our trade ties would further expand which would have a salutary effect on our all other relations as well. Our two countries of Iran and India enjoy immense capacities and capabilities in all spheres of life and, as they say, sky is the limit for growth of our bilateral, regional as well as multi – lateral ties.

Q: We learn that the Iranian government has invited Prime Minister Modi for a state visit and he has accepted the invitation. Could you confirm it? And if so, when is the next India – Iran bilateral meetings are expected to happen?

A: Yes, I confirm that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has invited the honorable prime minister of India, H. E. Mr. Narendra Modi, to pay a state visit to Iran and he has graciously accepted the same. We are eagerly waiting to receive His Excellency the Prime Minister of India in Iran. However, at the moment I am not in a position to say when the visit will take place. But the sooner it takes the better. 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.

Q: Iran’s ban of rice imports in November 2014 has significantly affected India’s basmati rice exports. When do you expect the ban to be removed?

A: There is no ban as such on the import of basmati rice from India. The only thing is that during the harvesting season, import of rice is usually stopped to help the domestic farmers. Moreover, Iran has imported a lot of rice from India which has still not been consumed. At the moment Iran has enough stock of rice and there is no need to import. As soon as the demand is created, the basmati rice imports from India will resume. So, there is no question of imposing or lifting the ban. It is only a question of demand and supply.

Q: An Indian consortium led by ONGC Videsh has won bid for the Farsi hydrocarbon block in Iran. The company’s managing director NK Verma recently said they have submitted a final development plan to the Iranian government and is waiting for a decision. Could you tell us what’s delaying the process?

A: I am not aware of the developments you are talking about. I can only say which is something already well known that Iran is immensely rich in natural gas and oil resources and is very close to India whose need for energy is increasing rapidly. I must mention that the Chahbahar port of Iran is only 940 kms away from the Mundra port of India. I hope that Iran and India will have extensive cooperation in the field of energy.

Q: How do you look at India’s role in the Middle East? Is there a scope for enhanced strategic cooperation between India and Iran in the region? Is India’s warming up to the US a bottleneck in its relationship with Iran?

A: India is an important country and can, and should, play a greater role in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf as well as the Sea of Oman regions. India enjoys all the potential to do so. There is an immense scope of strategic cooperation between Iran and India. If you remember they have cooperated with each other in Afghanistan and are still doing so. There is also the North South Corridor. India can benefit from it. Its goods can reach the Central Asian and European countries sooner. The gas pipeline also can play a strategic role in our neighborhood. The question of securing the sea lanes also is very serious. Iran and India can cooperate in tackling extremism and terrorism as well. I must assure you that there are no bottlenecks in India’s relationship with Iran. Moreover, things are changing and we can look forward for a still better environment for the growth of our all round ties.

Published on April 13, 2015

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