Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in a meeting with Iran’s visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari stressed Tehran’s right of access to peaceful nuclear technology while fulfilling all its international commitments and obligations. Also noting the recent steps agreed to between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) toward removing all doubts and uncertainty about Tehran’s nuclear program, Mukhrejee said, “There is clearly further progress to be made in the future.”
Dr. Safari has come to New Delhi as a special envoy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The purpose is to brief the Indian government on developments related to Iran’s nuclear issue, in particular the recent discussions with the IAEA.
The two sides exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan as well as the region. It was felt that both countries could play an important role in ensuring stability and security in the region. Highly placed sources said India also broached the subject of Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and access to Afghanistan through the Iranian port of Chabahar.
India has requested Iran to either make Chabahar a free trade port or fix tariffs that are competitive to those at Bandar Abbas. India is reconciled to Iran not granting the free trade port status to Chabahar and would be prepared to take the talks forward provided a reasonable tariff formula was arrived at.
In addition, New Delhi has offered to build and finance a 400-km railway line from the port to a place close to a highway that India is building in Afghanistan. This would enable it to move goods to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. At present, India moves goods through the Bandar Abbas port which normally takes 8-10 days. The movement from Chabahar would cut down the time to less than half. Also Indian goods would move quickly to the Central Asian republics and the highly time-consuming movement to Russian ports would be avoided.