Seeking closer economic ties, Iran posited itself as an attractive transit destination to other countries and a net provider of energy security at a press conference by top official Saeed Jalili, who is being spoken as a presidential candidate to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his completion of two terms in office.
India has been deeply interested in using the Iranian territory as transit route into Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe. But Mr. Jalili’s stress was more on energy security despite stalled talks on Indian equity participation in the Farzad gasfield and a gas pipeline to run through Pakistan.
“Iran’s capability is not just supplying oil and gas. Providing security of energy is one of the principles of Iran’s policy in this respect. We have the best capability [among all neighbouring countries] in providing energy security for the region,” he said. Iran had been active in combating piracy in the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
“Our effort has been exemplary. We provided security for our ships and went to the help of ships from other countries when they were attacked. It shows Iran’s power and determination to secure the safety of the region and energy routes.”
Making a case for more frequent dialogue, the Secretary of the influential Supreme National Security Council (and concurrently Iran’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator) said besides advancing ties in combating organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, there were “some other” opportunities, including strategic talks in the economic field.
He referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks in Tehran last year with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayotollah Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make the point about high-level political backing to frequent talks and cooperation between the two countries.
Denies U.S. pressure
Tehran wants closer ties at a time when India plans to continue reducing oil imports from Iran.
It denies any pressure from Washington, but the U.S. publicly says countries, including India and China, should cut dependence on the Iranian oil to avoid sanctions by the trans-Atlantic alliance of the U.S. and some western European countries. Close western allies, Japan and South Korea have already promised to cut oil imports from Iran in the current calendar year.
Iran is facing sanctions from the western alliance and could face more because of suspicions that its nuclear programme would lead to production of bomb-grade fissile material. But Tehran says the aim behind enriching uranium is to generate electricity and produce medical isotopes.
Mr. Jalili said his interaction with National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon did not touch on Iran’s nuclear issue and, on being asked, said India was not involved in its resolution.
But he conceded that nuclear security was an important issue that could be part of India-Iran cooperation.
On Afghanistan, his next stopover, he wanted the decision to include the Taliban in a power-sharing arrangement to be left to the local people.
The western powers were spectacularly unsuccessful in combating terrorism and narcotics production had gone up by four times since the occupation in 2001.
He reiterated Tehran’s stand of a popular vote to resolve the problems in Syria and Bahrain.