Last updated: 24 February, 2014

Iran’s Zarif plans India visit to revive ties and “open a new chapter”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will travel to India later this week as Tehran seeks to open a “new chapter” in relations with New Delhi, media reported Monday.

Leading a high-ranking delegation, Zarif will hold talks with top Indian officials to bolster ties during the two-day visit that begins Thursday, the official IRNA news agency said.

The visit will provide an opportunity to “open a new chapter” in relations with India, it said, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.

Talks will cover regional and international issues, “including developments in Afghanistan, combating violence and extremism, as well as the expansions of trade and economic ties” with India.

Another issue that could be discussed is Iran’s crude oil exports to energy-hungry India, the world’s fourth-largest oil importer, IRNA added.

India has significantly reduced its imports since the West imposed harsh economic sanctions on Tehran over its controversial nuclear drive in 2012.

New Delhi currently imports nearly 200,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran.

The sanctions, which include restrictions on financial transactions, have hampered the repatriation of petrodollars from India, which according to Iranian media owes Tehran nearly $5.3 billion for oil shipments.

Zarif’s visit comes as Iran and world powers agreed last week on a timetable and framework for negotiations on a comprehensive accord that would allay Western concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

Under a landmark interim deal clinched in November, Iran agreed to curb parts of its nuclear programme for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into effect on January 20

In recent months, the government of moderate President Hassan Rouhani has sought to attract foreign investment and revive its economic relations with classic partners in Asia and Europe.

Western nations and Israel have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian programme, charges denied by Tehran.