Taking note of sanctions imposed on Tehran by the UN and countries like the US, India Monday resolved to push energy ties with Iran and underlined the need for greater cooperation between the two countries in stabilising Afghanistan.
"India desires to promote and enhance relations with Iran in a way that serves the interests of our two countries," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said at a seminar here on "Strategic Dialogue on India and Iran."
"I would argue that the India-Iran relationship will become even more important with the inevitable rise of both India and Iran in this century, which has been dubbed by many as the Asian century," she said.
Rao's comments have set a positive tone for the meeting of joint commission between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Iranian Finance Minister Shamsuddin Huseini July 8-9.
Rao underscored the need for "structured, systematic and regular consultations" with Iran on defeating forces of extremism in Afghanistan and in the region.
"Neither of our countries wish to see the prospect of fundamentalist and extremist groups again suppressing the aspirations of the Afghan people and forcing Afghanistan back to being a training ground and sanctuary for terrorist groups," Rao said.
"Our vision of Afghanistan as a hub for economic activity, trade and transit linking South and Central Asia is shared by the Iranian side," she stressed.
"I would today reiterate the need for structured, systematic and regular consultations with Iran on the situation in Afghanistan," said Rao, while stressing on joint projects in the region.
Rao also pushed for accelerating the India-aided Chabahar port project that will provide Indian goods an alternative access route to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
Alluding to recent sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union against Iran, Rao reiterated that India has always advocated diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and stressed that it should be resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"We are justifiably concerned that the extra-territorial nature of certain unilateral sanctions recently imposed by individual countries, with their restrictions on investment by third countries in Iran’s energy sector, can have a direct and adverse impact on Indian companies and more importantly, on our energy security and our attempts to meet the development needs of our people," she said.
In the same breath, Rao added that although India and Iran may have differences on one or the other issue, "the areas of convergence far outweighed any differences" and called for building an enduring and pragmatic relationship.
US President Barack Obama Friday signed a bill imposing the toughest sanctions yet on Iran that includes cutting off Iran's access to refined petroleum imports, including gasoline and jet fuel and bans US banks from doing business with foreign banks that provide services to Revolutionary Guards.