India's Modi to visit Iran, seeking to boost trade

New Delhi (AFP) –


India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Iran this week, seeking to boost trade with the oil-rich country after international sanctions were lifted this year, it was announced Tuesday.

Iran was India's second largest supplier of crude oil until 2011/12, when sanctions forced New Delhi to reduce its dependence on the Gulf state.

The Ministry of External Affairs said Modi would meet President Hassan Rouhani during a two-day visit starting Saturday.

The visit will allow the two countries to "expand bilateral cooperation and mutually benefit from new opportunities in the wake of lifting of secondary sanctions against Iran earlier this year," it said.

Earlier this year India approved a $150 million project to develop the Iranian port of Chabahar, which will provide a transit route to resource-rich Afghanistan that bypasses neighbouring Pakistan.

Analyst Manoj Joshi said it would also give India access to the wider region including Russia, with which it recently signed a string of energy deals.

India imports 80 percent of its oil and its energy needs are growing.

"With this visit one can expect new opportunities for India's private sector in manufacturing, possible long-term deals for gas imports, energy access and exploration, security and strategic connectivity partnership for access to Central Asia," said Joshi, a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation think-tank.