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Krishna heads to Tehran

delhi Updated: May 13, 2010 19:38 IST
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna goes to Tehran on Saturday on a three-day visit to attend the G15 summit. He will also hold bilateral talks to revive faltering ties and will seek Tehran's cooperation in stabilising Afghanistan.

Krishna returned from a three-day trip to Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Krishna will hold wide-ranging discussions with his Iranian counterpart, the Bangalore-educated Manouchehr Mottaki, on bilateral, regional and global issues Sunday before participating in G15 summit of developing countries in the Iranian capital the next day, official sources said. The G15 is a forum of 18 developing countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The two ministers are set to discuss the proposed $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. Iran and Pakistan sealed pacts to launch the gas pipeline nearly two months ago, leaving the door open for New Delhi to join at a later stage.

India, however, continues to have serious differences over pricing of the gas and security of the pipeline that will pass through the volatile regions of Pakistan's southwestern province Balochistan. Krishna will raise India's concerns afresh, officials said ahead of his visit.

Intensification of energy and economic ties will also be discussed.

Krishna will hold consultations with Mottaki on the evolving situation in Afghanistan, specially in view of a West-backed proposal for reintegration of the Taliban. While New Delhi reluctantly went along with the idea at the Jan 20 London conference after drawing certain red lines, Tehran was not invited for the conference that set up a Taliban Reintegration Fund in the hope of weaning away the hardline militia from the ongoing insurgency.

In a meeting in Tehran two days ago, India's deputy National Security Adviser Alok Prasad conveyed to Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) chief Saeed Jalili the country's keenness to seek Iran's cooperation in stabilising violence-torn Afghanistan.

India, along with Iran and Russia, had supported the Northern Alliance that dislodged the Taliban regime in 2001 in the wake of the post 9/11 US strike against the militia.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's support in stabilising Afghanistan when the latter visited New Delhi in March.

As his visit takes place amid an ongoing drive by Western powers to impose new sanctions against Tehran over its suspect nuclear programme, Krishna is likely to stress that New Delhi has always advocated dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

India has voted in favour of IAEA resolutions on the Iranian nuclear programme -- an issue that has caused much heartburn in Tehran.