Braving US frowns, India sends trade team to Iran

In a bid to boost bilateral trade and economic ties with Iran, India has sent a business delegation to the oil-rich country, even as New Delhi remains cautious about the implications of the probe into last month’s blast on an Israeli Embassy vehicle here on its relation with the West Asian country.

New Delhi’s plan to send a business delegation to Tehran earlier raised hackles in the US. Two American lawmakers even wrote to Indian Ambassador in Washington DC calling upon New Delhi to drop the plan. India, however, went ahead with its plan and the business delegation left New Delhi for Tehran on Friday.

The delegation, spearheaded by Federation of Indian Export Organisation comprises nearly 70 business leaders and executives representing sectors like textiles, agriculture, food, automobiles, tools, tea, rice and petrochemicals. It also includes officials of several ministries of the Union Government.

The representatives of the India Inc will have a series of meetings with their counterparts in Iran as well as officials of the Iran government. They will have meetings with Tehran Chamber of Commerce and other trade organisations in the country.

New Delhi’s economic relation with Tehran was traditionally buoyed by India’s import from crude oil from Iran. Bilateral trade was worth $ 13. 7 billion in 2010-11. Though fresh US sanctions on Iran and growing uncertainties in West Asia prompted India to look for alternative sources of hydrocarbon, New Delhi is also keen to boost its trade ties with Tehran.

Two American Congressmen, Steve Israel and Richard Hanna, last month wrote to Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao, to express concerns over India’s plan to send the trade delegation to Iran. They also expressed concerns over reports that India had surpassed China as the top purchaser of crude oil from Iran.

Indian Embassy in Washington last Tuesday came out with a statement clarifying that India’s ties with Iran was neither inconsistent with its non-proliferation objectives, nor contradictory to its relations with its friends in West Asia or with the US and Europe.

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