Manmohan Singh to visit Iran

Manmohan Singh to visit Iran

Manmohan Singh to visit Iran

Singh accepted in principle the invitation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to visit Iran when the two leaders met today on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session currently on here.

The dates for the visit will be decided by the two sides after diplomatic consultations. This was the first meeting between the two leaders after a long time and they reviewed bilateral relations, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters while briefing them about the meeting.

If Singh visits Iran, it will be the first Prime Ministerial visit after 10 years when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a trip to Tehran in 2001. There have been visits at other levels over the years between the two countries. Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar will also be visiting Iran shortly.

The meeting also decided the Joint Economic Commission between the two sides will be meeting soon to be co-chaired by the Foreign Minister of Iran. The two leaders reviewed situation in Afghanistan and discussed developments in West Asia and North Africa. They also agreed to review the Non-Aligned Movement which will be chaired next by Tehran.

Replying to a question whether the meeting between Singh and Ahmedinejad will have any impact on the Indo-US relations against the backdrop of American officials walking out during a speech by the Iranian President earlier in the week, Mathai said the focus of the two leaders was on bilateral issues.

The Iranian President would be the next Chairman of the NAM, he noted. He also said the gas pipeline proposal between India and Iran was not discussed, adding a wide range of economic issues including long term cooperation were discussed.

Asked about the issue of safety net against the backdrop of Iran and Israel emerging as nuclear powers in the region, Mathai said the nuclear problem was not discussed.

The emphasis was on bilateral ties and this issue was not discussed, he said. On Afghanistan, both the countries felt that the dispensation in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led.

To a question on India's reaction to General Mike Mullen's comments that Haqqani network and Pakistan's ISI were involved in the killing of former Afghan President Rabbani, Mathai said India's position on terrorism was well known but he would not comment on what the US official had said.

The Prime Minister also met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and discussed bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest. Rajapakse briefed him on proposals for devolution of power and the discussions between Tamil National Alliance.

The President also told Singh that parallel discussions were on in the Parliament Select Committee on the issue. The leaders also discussed the resettlement of displaced persons and the fishing issue. A Joint Working Group on fisheries was also discussed.

Asked whether the issue of alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka was discussed in the context of a case being filed in a New York court, Mathai said the discussion was in general terms for addressing these issues in the island.

"Our Prime Minister noted that successful conclusion of the problems of the Tamil people preclude the need for outside intervention in Sri Lanka." Singh also met the newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and congratulated him on his election. The two Prime Ministers noted that there has been an intensification of the relationship with Japan in the last few years.

The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, regional affairs in the context of the upcoming East Asia Summit and global partnership between India and Japan also came up in the meeting.

The two agreed to continue discussion on nuclear cooperation, noting that all countries were reviewing safety aspects. Japan suffered a severe nuclear accident when it was hit by a tsunami earlier this year. It was agreed at the meeting that the G-4 cooperation should continue on the UN Security Council reforms.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna attended a meeting of the G-4 countries involving India, Brazil, Japan and Germany, when they reiterated their common vision for the enlarged UN Security Council taking into account the contributions made by the countries to international peace and security.

Krishna also attended a meeting of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as Chair of the grouping which will have its next summit in March-April in 2012. The BRIC foreign ministers discussed the situation in Libya, Syria and Palestine, early accession of Russia to WTO and climate change.