by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Oct 6, 2012
An Indian business group said Saturday a delegation was visiting Iran to boost trade with the Islamic republic, which is under strain from Western sanctions over its alleged nuclear weapons programme.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) said the "high-powered" 50-member business delegation was on a four-day visit to Iran to attend the Tehran International Industry Exhibition (TIIE).
Anil Agarwal, chairman of International Affairs Council of ASSOCHAM, called opportunities for trade a "win-win situation" for the two countries.
Iran is a major oil supplier to energy-hungry India, and New Delhi is seeking to increase its exports to Tehran as the West's sanctions campaign dries up payment routes it was using to pay for Iranian fuel imports.
India and Iran have worked out a deal under which New Delhi will pay for a big chunk of its Iranian oil imports in rupees. The rupee payments will be used by Iran to purchase Indian goods.
"Indian industry has huge scope for investments" in Iran in sectors like construction, pharmaceuticals, telecom and textiles, "while Iran can import fertilizers, zinc, copper and iron", Agarwal said.
The visit to Tehran, one in a series of recent commercial exchanges between the two countries, comes as ordinary Iranians struggle with growing economic problems amid the US-led Western sanctions.
Annual trade between India and Iran totals $15 billion and heavily skewed towards Tehran, which exports mainly oil.
India has been walking a diplomatic tightrope as it pursues good ties with the Gulf nation while deepening relations with the United States.
India, a longtime Tehran ally, sharing historical, trading and cultural links, views Iran as an important counterweight to rival Pakistan in the region.
In June, Washington said it would exempt seven emerging economies including India from reprisals after they pledged to cut back on oil purchases from Iran.
India expects to import less than 14 million tonnes of Iranian crude in 2012-13, below official estimates of 15.5 million tonnes due to the sanctions, the Economic Times newspaper reported earlier in the week.
By contrast, India imported 21.8 million tonnes of crude from Iran in 2008-09, the newspaper quoted an unnamed government official as saying.
Iran is keen to increase crude oil sales to New Delhi and is looking at ways to work round Western sanctions, the official added.
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