NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday underlined India’s intent to continue to develop “strong and friendly relations" with Iran during a meeting with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif against the backdrop of tensions between the Persian Gulf nation and the US.

The two leaders discussed the situation in the region following the killing of Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general, by the US in a drone strike on 3 January, that spiked tensions in the volatile West Asian region.

Zarif is in New Delhi on a three-day visit. On Wednesday, he spoke at the fifth Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi where he described Soleimani as the "single most effective force against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Modi “reiterated India's continued commitment to developing her strong and friendly relations with Iran. He thanked Iranian leadership for the progress in Chabahar project, including through designating it as Special Economic Zone," a government statement said.

Chabahar is a port in Iran that India first proposed to develop in 2003 as a gateway to landlocked Central Asia and Afghanistan. It was seen as a strategic counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar port that has been developed by China. The development of the Chabahar port, however, has been delayed due to tensions between the US and Iran.

“The Foreign Minister (Zarif) shared his perspectives on the recent developments in the region. The Prime Minister mentioned India's strong interest in peace, security and stability in the region," the statement from Modi’s office said.

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