India To Go Ahead With Iran Trade Visit

ISLAMABAD: Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Wednesday that an Indian business delegation would still visit Iran despite a string of bomb attacks blamed on the increasingly isolated Islamic republic.

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma witnesses a signing agreement ceremony between Pakistan and India in Islamabad on Wednesday.

ISLAMABAD: Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said Wednesday that an Indian business delegation would still visit Iran despite a string of bomb attacks blamed on the increasingly isolated Islamic republic.

Sharma told AFP during a trade visit to Pakistan that terrorism and trade were “separate issues,” adding that the perpetrators behind Monday’s bomb attack on an Israeli diplomat’s car in New Delhi had yet to be established.

“I am sure that our investigating agencies will identify and bring to justice the perpetrators,” said Sharma.

Israel said Tehran was responsible for the attack which badly injured an Israeli woman, but Sharma insisted the matter had to be dealt with through the legal process.

“Let’s be very, very clear, an act of terrorism has to be dealt as per the law,” he said.

India said last week it would send a “huge” trade mission by the end of this month to Iran to explore business opportunities created by sanctions imposed by the West over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear programme.

Iran is India’s second-largest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, providing around 12 per cent of the fast-growing country’s crude needs.

India says it will abide only by UN sanctions, and will not implement those by individual nations or groupings.

The country has been examining ways to step up trade with Iran amid trouble in settling its oil bills from Iran as a result of the sanctions campaign that is drying up banking routes.

A leading Indian trade body said the attack may have soured the atmosphere, but that business between India and Iran is unlikely to be affected.

The Islamic republic offers huge potential for export of Indian products and commodities worth more than $10 billion annually, said The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

“India is a rapidly growing economy with a surging demand for commercial energy including hydrocarbons,” said secretary general D.S. Rawat.

“Iran is a close ally and important economic partner of India.” Over the years, ASSOCHAM has maintained contact with the Iran Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and has been interacting with visiting Iranian officials and business delegations.

“The potential of trade and economic relations between the two countries can touch the level of $30 billion by 2015 from the current level of $13.7 billion in 2010-11,” said Rawat.

David Goldfarb, Israeli embassy spokesman in New Delhi, declined to comment on India’s trade mission directly, but he said Iran should be dealt with through sanctions and isolation.

“We believe the only way to deal with the Iranian regime is through strict economics sanctions and political isolation. It’s the easiest and most efficient way of handling this matter,” Goldfarb told AFP.

India is working on a free-trade deal with Israel, which is also a major military hardware supplier.

“The US is a leading strategic partner for India and Iran has emerged, once again, the test case for the future of the bilateral relationship,” Indian foreign policy expert C. Raja Mohan wrote in the Indian Express newspaper.

“India can’t ride out its current challenge in the Middle East by playing all sides,” he wrote.

The European Union this month agreed to an embargo on Iran’s vital oil exports as part of an intensifying US-led campaign aimed at forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear programme.