More Iran-India trade would boost ties - delegation
Replacement of ‘all Iranian oil imports’ is not ‘a
IRAN: Boosting exports from India to Iran would not only help right
lopsided trade but also deepen ties between the two countries, a major
Indian delegation said on Saturday at the start of a five-day visit.
“New Delhi is seeking to increase its exports to Iran and sees the
increase in trade as a sign of deepening relations,” Rafeeq Ahmed,
president of the government-backed Federation of Indian Export
Organisations, told a Tehran meeting of Iranian businessmen.
“New Delhi gives ample importance to boosting ties with Tehran,” he
said, according to quotes reported by Iran's official IRNA news agency.
The delegation, counting around 70 government and corporate
representatives, is exploring what India sees as “huge” potential in
increasing sales to Iran at a time the Islamic republic is being cut off
from other markets because of ramped-up Western sanctions.
India, which buys $14 billion worth of oil from Iran per year but
currently sells just $2.7 billion of goods to the Islamic republic,
refuses to go along with the US-led sanctions.
With Iran having agreed to receive 45 percent of its Indian oil
revenues in rupees, instead of harder-to-collect dollars, the scope for
buying more Indian goods has greatly widened.
Arvind Mehta, joint secretary in the Indian commerce ministry, was
quoted as saying that “high quality and cheap agricultural products,
medicine and hospital services are among the fields of cooperation which
Iran can benefit from its Indian partner.” The secretary general of
Tehran's Chamber of Commerce, Mohammad Mehdi Rasekh, said he also saw
opportunities for Indian suppliers.
“India has capabilities in the fields of food industry, medicine,
metals and machinery and car parts, and in return Iran has capabilities
in plastic material, polymers and chemicals, and thus cooperation in
this regard can be boosted,” he said.
But while India is focusing on the possible trade boost with Iran, it
will also have to balance its growing partnership with the United States
and maintain its good relations with Israel, a key arms supplier.
A source close to the Indian delegation said in New Delhi that the
companies involved -- which were not identified by Indian officials --
were worried about potential US reprisals.
US lawmakers and pro-Israel groups have accused New Delhi of
undermining American and European efforts to isolate Tehran and force it
to abandon its nuclear programme. An attack that severely injured an
Israeli diplomat in New Delhi last month -- blamed by Israel on Iran --
has added further complications.
The Indian trade team is to stay in Iran until March 14.
Iran is India's second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, and
while India has diversified to cut its dependence on the country in
recent years, New Delhi says replacement of “all Iranian oil imports” is
not “a realistic option”. AFP