0533 GMT December 15, 2017
Iran is critically important for India as it is helping the South Asian country meet its growing energy needs, said the executive director of India's National Maritime Foundation (NMF).
The two countries also have traditionally friendly ties, Captain Gurpreet S. Khurana told Iran Daily on the sidelines of a meeting in the Indian capital of New Delhi with a delegation of journalists from the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member states.
Established on March 7, 1997, IORA is a 21-member intergovernmental organization which seeks to expand regional economic cooperation and strengthen mutually beneficial collaboration through a consensus-based approach.
The Indian Ocean Rim defines a distinctive area in international politics consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean. Iran is a member state.
Underlining that India's thirst and hunger for energy resources are growing, he added Iran has done a great favor to his country by signing a long-standing oil and gas supply contract with the South Asian state in the past.
At that time, of course, Iran was very secluded due to the US sanctions, Captain Khurana added.
NMF executive director hoped that Iran would not experience the same condition in the future and fully regain its former international status.
Commenting on US efforts to hinder trade cooperation between Tehran and New Delhi, he said, "Americans often ask us what our relationship with Iran is and why it is so important for us [to strengthen our relations with the Middle Eastern state] that we sometimes abandon the US and go to Iran."
Responding to such questions by the US, he said, "Of course, there are reasons which are much beyond what I am going to say now. But what we tell them is: 'Listen, Iran is very important to us because Afghanistan is important to us'."
India and Iran have a very important, coherent and coordinated role to play in Afghanistan, Khurana added.
"Every country, whether it is Iran, the US or India, always seeks to ensure its own interests."
He said certainly, there is a convergence between Iran and India both in terms of a buyer-seller relationship of energy resources, and the development of Chabahar Port in south Iran.
Sometime ago, India dispatched the first wheat consignment from Mumbai, a densely populated city on India's west coast, all the way through Bandar Abbas in the southern Iranian province of Hormuzgan to the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC), Khurana added.
He said that was because Chabahar Port is not yet ready. "Once the port is ready, that will be a very great trade route for India as it will be a sort of response to China's 'The Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI).
NMF executive director said the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor and the INSTC are both of utmost importance to India adding that Iran plays a very critical role in the implementation of the latter and that is why the country is important to New Delhi.
The extreme importance of Chabahar Port lies in the fact that it provides India with land access to Afghanistan, he added.
"Pakistan has denied India's trade access to Afghanistan. I have always said that India is like an island due to the geopolitical and geophysical barriers it is faced with. We have mountain ranges in the north and west and have problems with China and Pakistan."
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
Despite a cease-fire agreement that was reached in November 2003, sporadic skirmishes continue in the region.
India has great and friendly relations with Afghanistan and is currently playing a very big stabilizing role there in coordination with Iran, he said.
India, Khurana said, needs to have access to Afghanistan and, beyond that, to Central Asian states to meet its energy needs, sell its products and help its economy as well as those of the countries with which it is engaged in trade grow together.
Shifting to the development of Chabahar Port and Iran's contribution to that end, he noted, "We are getting a very good support from Iran [in the project to accelerate the development of Chabahar Port]."
The Indian official expressed satisfaction that currently, the Japanese are also coming in to participate in the project, adding, India may have some required expertise but it may be lacking something else.
Thus, he said, with the Japanese and their technology in, it will be very great.
Khurana added given that the Iranians are of course also there, he sees no reason why the project should not make progress and be completed.
He blamed the slow pace as the two countries' only shortcoming in the development of Chabahar and hoped that the things would progress faster.
Based in New Delhi, NMF was established in 2005 as the nation's first maritime think-tank for conducting independent and policy-relevant research on 'matters maritime'. It was inaugurated on February 19, 2005.