India Greatly Values Its Relationship With Iran: Vajpayee

April 10, 2001 - 0:0
NEW DELHI Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said here Monday, "India greatly values its relationship with Iran and the present visit will define the path for our cooperation in the years to come."

In an exclusive interview with IRNA on the eve of his visit to Iran, the Indian prime minister said Monday, "India and Iran have historical ties of friendship and cultural affinities. Both countries have influenced each other in art, language, literature and other areas of human life."

Vajpayee then spoke of the purpose of his visit to Tehran and said, "I trust my visit to Iran will strengthen our bonds of friendship and also impart a new direction to our relationship."

In reply to a question about his views on economic relations between the two countries and India's program's for expanding ties, Vajpayee said, "India and Iran have enhanced their political dialogue and intensified economic and technical interaction in recent years."

He added, "The joint commission and various joint working groups established between the two countries have played an important role in this respect.

"We believe both countries need to build on this momentum by finalizing new mechanisms which would enable the participation of the public and private sectors in economic development projects in our two countries," Vajpayee added.

Referring to concrete steps taken by the two countries for upgrading cultural relations in recent years, Vajpayee said, "I am sure during my visit to Tehran we will identify new areas in which both countries could further develop cooperation."

On another question regarding the prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the international scene, Vajpayee said, "India and Iran have similarities in approach and convergence of positions on several issues of regional and global importance. We maintain close contact with each other in UN as well as in other international fora and are sensitive to each others' concerns.

"We have cooperated in several areas important to developing countries, such as environment and human rights. We would like our cooperation in the international arena to grow."

On the issue of gas pipeline from Iran to India, Vajpayee said, "India looks upon Iran as an important source of its energy needs. Iran's large reserves of oil and natural gas and our growing demand for them provide an enduring basis for our cooperation.

"The matter of gas supply from Iran to India has been under discussion by the two sides for some time now. A joint committee has been set up for this purpose. It is mandated to examine all aspects including political, economic and financial. The important aspect in the supply of Iranian gas to India is that the chosen mode of transfer of Iranian gas in long-term, cost effective and secure," said Vajpayee.

On questions regarding the security of Southwest Asia and India and Iran, Vajpayee said, "India has always stood for peace and harmony among nations. We adhere to principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries as this is the only basis on which cordial relations among the countries can be established.

"We will continue our dialogue with Iran on regional and international issues, with the important objectives of expanding the frontiers of peace and progress in our neighborhood and shrink the areas of conflicts and confrontation," Vajpayee said.

The Indian prime minister heading a high-level political and economic delegation will leave for Tehran today for upgrading relations between India and Islamic Republic of Iran.

Meanwhile, an Indian Foreign Ministry official said in the meantime that India and Iran will sign a Tehran declaration, aimed at rebuilding relations, during Vajpayee's four-day state visit to Iran beginning today.

"India and Iran have civilizational links dating back centuries," K.V. Rajan, advisor in the Foreign Ministry told reporters.

In the recent past, there "has been an increasing convergence of views ... and increasing cooperation in multilateral fora," he said.

In the meantime, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh arrived here on Monday ahead of the visit by the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. According to IRNA Singh's visit aims to review the latest developments in the two countries' bilateral cooperation with senior Iranian officials.

Pakistani military chief, General Pervez Musharraf was also quoted by the Pakistani press as saying that the visit of the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee would not affect ties between Tehran and Islamabad.

Also, in an interview with the Iranian official news agency IRNA, a top Indian scholar said that the visit of Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to Iran is seen as "vitally important not only for India and Iran but for the whole Asian region."

Professor and honorary Director at the Zakir Hussain Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, Akhtarul Wasey said, "Iran is one of the very progressive country like India, as there is a sound social structure and has democratic values." He added that "Iran and India having a long history of the ancient civilization and the PM visit, will not only change the destiny of India and Iran but of the whole region".

The professor was "concerned with the crucial phase India is facing, i.e. threats from outside. Iran with its influence can impress upon Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries to stop their hostilities toward India. Iran has in many ways tried to impress upon the members countries of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) that they should understand India's position".

Another Indian professor talking to IRNA said Vajpayee's Iran visit is seen as "building a Southwest Asian togetherness."

Professor and Director Girijesh Pant in Persian Gulf Studies Program, Center of West Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi said that there are new contours of relationship between India and Iran.

Asked about the gas pipeline project between the two countries, Pant said India is in favor of the offshore gas pipeline because there are new technologies offered by MNCS that are very cheap to lay offshore pipelines. Nevertheless, he also appreciated the possibility of land route through Pakistan, which can bridge differences between India and Pakistan. Pant added that the differences between Iran and India are narrowing down on this project.