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India, Iran condemn countries aiding terror; sign nine accords

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |

In what is seen as an indictment of Pakistan, Iran on Saturday joined India in condemning the states that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism, asserting that the scourge should not be associated with any religion, nationality or ethnic group.

The two countries signed nine key accords, including one which brings into force the bilateral extradition treaty signed in 2008 and another under which India will take over for 18 months operations of existing facilities at the Chabahar port, which provides it a crucial transport link to land-locked Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Four MoUs were signed by trade bodies of the two countries on the margins of the official-level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In a joint statement released after the two-hour Modi-Rouhani meeting, the two countries also called on the international community to end selective or partial approaches to combat terrorism. The two countries sought an immediate end to support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and individuals.

“Iran and India have a common stance on confronting terrorism and extremism, and we are determined to confront terrorism and extremism through culture and the exchange of information and experience,” the Iranian President said in a statement to the media after talks with PM Modi.

There was one significant paragraph in the joint statement which stated that the two leaders expressed their conviction that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminated terrorists, but should also identify and address conditions conducive to terrorism as well as extremist ideologies.

Both Modi and Rouhani expressed their firm resolve to further intensify and strengthen multi-faceted bilateral cooperation in the larger interest of regional peace and stability.

The three-day visit of Rouhani to India, which took him to Hyderabad too, came amid growing fears of fresh sanctions on Iran following US President Donald Trump’s threat to pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic and key Western powers.

Rouhani stated that Iran was committed to fulfil all its obligations under international accords. To circumvent any problem that could arise for trade between the two nations, the two countries signed an accord on avoidance of double taxation and agreed to put in place an effective banking channel for business transactions. It was also agreed to set up a joint committee of officials to examine feasible options, including Rupee-Rial (Iranian currency) arrangement for bilateral trade.

In his statement to the media, the PM Modi expressed India’s readiness to support the development of a railway line between Chabahar and Zahedan in Iran to exploit the full potential of the Chabahar port.

However, the two countries were unable to resolve their differences over the Farzad-B gas field which India is keen to develop in the face of competition from a Russian major. Senior Indian official, Deepak Mittal, who is the Joint Secretary in-charge of Iran in the External Affairs Ministry, said the two sides have decided to continue discussion on the gas field.