New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) Amid US sanctions and accelerated efforts by the West to isolate Iran, a mammoth Indian trade delegation Friday left for Tehran to explore business opportunities in the oil-rich country.
The trade delegation comprises around 70 40 businessmen and exporters and is led by Arvind Mehta, joint secretary in the commerce ministry, and M. Rafeeque Ahmed, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
They will be in Iran till March 14, government sources said. They will hold meetings with Iranian chambers of commerce and businessmen to explore new investment opportunities in Iran.
The visit of the trade mission comes amid accelerated efforts by the US and the European Union to push sanctions against Iran which is suspected of developing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian atomic energy programme.
Despite the Western sanctions on Iran, India last month sealed a payment mechanism under which Indian companies will pay for 45 percent of their crude oil imports from Iran in rupees.
Not just oil, India also plans to go ahead with refurbishing of the Chabahar Port in Iran and a strategic railway link that will offer it direct access to Afghanistan and the energy-rich Central Asia.
India has taken care to insulate its multi-faceted ties with Iran from the West’s prickly standoff with Tehran over its nuclear programme.
India has also chosen not to comment on Israeli accusations about Iran’s hand in the bombing that targeted an Israeli embassy car last month and maintained that there is no evidence to point to an Iranian link.
India continues to buy Iranian oil and expand economic relations with Iran. Iran used to supply 12 percent of India’s oil imports, but for some time its share has dropped to 10 percent.
India has warned against allowing the Iran situation escalate into a “disastrous” conflict and advocated peaceful resolution of the issue through diplomacy.
“India’s relationship with Iran is neither inconsistent with non-proliferation objectives, nor do we seek to contradict the relationships we have with our friends in West Asia or with the United States and Europe,” the Indian Embassy asserted in Washington Tuesday.