NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed on Saturday to step up efforts to bring stability to war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Modi reiterated India’s commitment to help Afghanistan become “a peaceful, secure, permanent, prosperous and pluralistic country” after holding talks with Rouhani in New Delhi on the last day of his three-day visit.
“Looking at our common interests, we are committed to stopping the expansion of such forces that promote international organised crime in terrorism, extremism, illegal drug trafficking, cyber-crime and various forms,” Modi said. “We want to see our region and the world free from terrorism.”
Important agreements were signed between India and Iran, which will benefit our nations. President @HassanRouhani and I released a stamp marking the warm history and promising future of India-Iran ties. https://t.co/J1ZkGnsPyO pic.twitter.com/AhvPGLDo8U
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 17, 2018
There was no mention of financial assistance or providing weapons to help Afghanistan fight militants by either leader.
Acknowledging that India and Iran shared a similar history and culture with each other, President Rouhani said, “The relations between the two countries goes beyond trade and business, it goes back in history. We share cultural and historical relations with the two countries. Our and your artists, engineers, mathematicians and litterateurs ensured that our relations, which goes back in history are kept intact, which will strengthen our friendship and relationship in the future.”
The Iran president added that the intertwining of two cultures indicated the strong bonding and reaffirming of the friendly relations between India and Iran.
President Rouhani added that the visit of PM Modi in Tehran in 2016 was an important step in the development of bilateral relations between India and India. He thanked Modi for the kindness and the hospitality served during his three-day visit to India.
On Friday, Rouhani visited the Qutb Shahi tombs in the Golconda area of Hyderabad.
India has been a key supporter of Kabul’s government and has poured more than $2 billion into the country since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.
In 2016, India offered $1 billion in economic aid to strengthen various sectors in the war-torn nation including education, health and agriculture.
Modi said both countries wanted to increase economic cooperation, regional connectivity and improve energy security to reach landlocked Afghanistan and central Asia via the southern Iranian port of Chabahar.
The port, which was inaugurated in December, has been touted as a way for India to establish trade routes that bypass its rival Pakistan.
India has been a key purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and maintained trade ties even as international sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear programme between 2012 and 2016.
However, local Indian media have reported frustrations over delays in awarding a contract to develop a major gas field known as Farzad B in the Gulf.
India’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that “discussions continue” on Farzad B.
The two leaders also signed agreements for avoidance of double taxation and the implementation of an extradition treaty from 2008.
As part of a lease contract, India will help Iran run a multi-purpose container terminal at Chabahar for 18 months.
India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a three-way transit agreement in 2016 to develop Chabahar port aiming to boost economic growth in the region.
New Delhi is trying to develop Chabahar as a way to gain access to the markets of central Asia as well as Afghanistan.
But progress is slow because of concern that President Donald Trump’s administration in Washington may eventually scrap the Iran nuclear deal.
Later, addressing a joint press conference with the Iranian president, Modi said both countries wanted to expand bilateral ties and cooperation in economic development.
“We will support the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link so that Chabahar gateway’s potential could be fully utilized,” Modi said.
“We want to expand connectivity, cooperation in the energy sector and the centuries-old bilateral relationship.”