Dhaka, 26 June-2014(PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina to…
New Delhi,SUHASINI HAIDAR:Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Iran on Sunday, the government announced, even as sources told The Hindu that he will follow it up with a visit Afghanistan in June.
Both visits — in what India considers its “extended neighbourhood” — will focus on infrastructure development.
The Chabahar port development project will top Mr. Modi’s agenda in Iran, while he is expected to visit Afghanistan to inaugurate the $300-million Salma dam and hydroelectric power plant, known as the Afghanistan-India friendship dam.
Mr. Modi’s visits will complete the triangle as he is expected to sign the trilateral trade treaty with Iran and Afghanistan for Chabahar, which was finalised during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s trip to Tehran last month.
“The transmission lines [for the hydroelectric plant] have been handed over, and we are conducting the final testing for power generation,” a senior official from the MEA said, adding India hoped to complete the 42MW reconstruction project, which was started in 2006, “very soon.”
According to the official, the exact dates for the Prime Minister’s visit, that would come five months after his last visit to Kabul when he inaugurated the Parliament building, were “still being finalised.”
On Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs announced that Mr. Modi would visit Iran on May 22-23 to meet President Hassan Rouhani in an official visit that would “provide a timely thrust to the ongoing efforts of the two countries and their business entities to expand bilateral cooperation and mutually benefit from new opportunities in the wake of lifting of secondary sanctions against Iran earlier this year.”
The Prime Minister will also meet the ‘Supreme Leader’ Ali Khamenei, marking his first visit to the country after the historic nuclear agreement with world powers was signed, and the U.S.
Repayment of dues
As The Hindu reported on Monday, among issues on the agenda are agreeing on a channel for repayment of $6.5 billion in unpaid dues from India to appropriate corresponding banks in Iran, an Memorandum of Understanding on developing the Chabahar port project and the trilateral transit trade agreement with Afghanistan, India’s stake in the Farzad-B oilfields, the announcement of investments from Indian companies in the Chabahar “Free Trade Zone,” and security and defence pacts.
“The visit of Prime Minister to Iran will seek to build on these commonalities by focussing on specific cooperation in regional connectivity and infrastructure, developing energy partnership, boosting bilateral trade, facilitating people-to-people interaction in various spheres and promoting peace and stability in the region,” an MEA release read.
Mr. Modi’s visit to Iran is a rare stand-alone visit indicating that India hopes to fast-track ties and build on the alternative route for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia.