India, Iran to carry on with pipeline, LNG

The two countries would continue to deepen ties and carry on with bilateral projects.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 01:07 IST

India and Iran on Thursday sent a clear message across that despite New Delhi's vote against Tehran on its nuclear programme, the two countries would continue to deepen ties and carry on with bilateral projects, including the tri-nation pipeline and a multi-billion dollar gas deal.

"They reaffirmed their commitment to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and an early ratification of the LNG deal already signed between the two countries," external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

Sarna was commenting on the talks between Iran's deputy foreign minister Mehdi Safari, who arrived here on Thursday, and top Indian officials, including Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Rajiv Sikri, Secretary (East) in the ministry of external affairs.

This is the first high profile bilateral visit after New Delhi voted against Tehran early this month at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report Tehran to the UN Security Council for its alleged violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"The two sides had a comprehensive review of bilateral relations, and agreed to continue cooperation in all areas of mutual interest and benefit, including in the energy field," Sarna said.

India's Iran vote had sparked anxieties about the future of the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline and the gas deal for transporting 5 million tones of LNG annually to India, with some saying Tehran might suspend projects with all countries who voted against it at the IAEA. Price negotiations with Tehran for importing another 2.5 million tones of LNG will continue between the two sides.

The Indian side also reiterated the need for finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and again asked all sides "to eschew confrontation, exercise restraint and demonstrate flexibility" to resolve the issue within the IAEA.

Safari's visit coincides with the one by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who is here to discuss finer points of nuclear deal ahead of President George Bush's visit to India early March. The Iranian nuclear issue would also be discussed between Burns and Indian officials on Friday, sources said.

In a recent statement in Parliament on the Iran issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh justified India's vote against Iran in Vienna, saying that New Delhi's position was based on balancing bilateral ties with security implications of proliferation in the region.

"The objectives of upholding Iran's rights and obligations and our security concerns arising from proliferation activities in our extended neighbourhood have shaped our position," Manmohan Singh had told Parliament in response to criticism of the Left parties.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 22:04 IST