Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in India on his first official visit to try to seal a $7.6 billion pipeline deal linking the world’s second-largest gas reserves to growing South Asian economies.
Ahmadinejad was expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late on Tuesday in a brief stop-over trip.
Official visit: Indian President Pratibha Patil with her Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his arrival for a meeting at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, on Tuesday
The Iranian leader visited Pakistan on Monday before moving on to Sri Lanka. Islamabad and Tehran said they had settled a host of issues over the pipeline project, which could be completed by 2012.
It would initially transport 60 million cu. m. of gas daily to Pakistan and India, half for each country, but capacity would be raised later to 150 million cu. m.
New Delhi also wants to revive a 2005 agreement to import 5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas from Iran.
Washington has urged India this month to use Ahmadinejad’s visit to encourage Iran to stop nuclear enrichment. India, which has been growing closer to the US in recent years, responded sharply — saying that it did not need any “guidance” on its bilateral relations.
India will also hope to improve diplomatic relations with Tehran which have been strained.
It voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2006, and launched an Israeli spy satellite earlier this year.
India has been boycotting trilateral meetings on the Iran pipeline since mid-2007, citing it first wanted to resolve the issues of transit fees and transportation tariffs with Pakistan.