When Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki holds talks with Indian officials here Monday, the stalled tri-nation gas pipeline project will be discussed, but the focus will be on the flow of terror from Pakistan-based militants of which Tehran was a recent victim.
In the first high-level engagement between the two countries since the re-election of the Manmohan Singh government and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mottaki will hold delegation-level talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
Mottaki will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and during the meeting he is expected to renew an invitation to visit Tehran.
Mottaki's visit comes days before Manmohan Singh leaves for Washington on a state visit, a coincidence which nonetheless underlines New Delhi's independent policy of not linking relations with Tehran with its ties with Washington.
"The visit will provide an opportunity for both sides to discuss issues of mutual interest and further strengthen the civilisational and historical ties between India and Iran," the external affairs ministry said here Friday.
The two sides will review an entire spectrum of bilateral relationship ranging from energy security and trade to closer cultural and strategic ties.
With a recent attack in the southeastern province of Sistan-Balochistan, near Iran's border with Pakistan, masterminded by a Pakistani extremist outfit as a backdrop, the talks are expected to be dominated by cross-border terrorism, official sources said here.
Pakistan-based Jundallah had claimed responsibility for the Oct 18 attack in which a suicide bomber killed five senior commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and at least 37 others in Pishin district near the Pakistan border.
The attack, for which Iran accused Pakistan of shielding operatives of Jundallah, has brought it closer to India which has been a victim of cross-border terrorism for decades.
The two sides will also discuss the volatile situation in Afghanistan, in whose stability they have high stakes. Both New Delhi and Tehran oppose the Taliban and had backed the Northern Alliance in the run-up to the ouster of the Taliban regime from Afghanistan in 2001.
The tri-nation pipeline that seeks to bring the Iranian gas to India via Pakistan will also figure high in the discussions. The $7 billion gas pipeline project is embroiled in serious differences between India and Iran on the issues of pricing and security.
The Indian side is likely to convey to the visiting Iranians that it is "serious" about the ambitious pipeline project, hailed as a peace pipeline, but will stress on "patience" in resolving the issues relating to price and security, the sources said. A joint working group comprising officials of the petroleum ministry is expected to meet soon to take this process forward.
Scaling up trade and investment will also be high on the agenda. India is looking at the burgeoning Iranian market with a predominantly young population as an opportunity to expand and diversify its trade basket with Tehran. The Indian companies are also keen on joint projects related to petrochemical and other hydro-carbon projects.