Symbolism as Strategy

Spirituality to precede trade for Iranian president on India trip

30NarendraModi (File) Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during Modi's visit to Iran in 2016 | PTI

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will offer prayers and address the gathering at Hyderabad's historic Mecca Masjid as he arrives in India on Thursday for a three-day visit.

He is also expected to speak to a group of religious scholars and intellectuals before he visits Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trade will one of the key items on the agenda when both leaders meet in Delhi.

New Delhi is supporting Iran in developing the Chabahar port, which will give India access to Central Asia and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan. Chabahar is of strategic importance to India as China is helping Pakistan build Gwadar port.

India is also a key purchaser of Iranian oil and gas. Indo-Iranian bilateral trade during the fiscal year 2016-17 was $12.89 billion. India imported $10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, from Iran and exported commodities worth $2.4 billion.

The visit assumes significance as Modi has returned after a three-nation tour to Palestine, UAE and Oman. India oversaw increasing purchases of oil from UAE to build its energy reserves.

This is the 'return' visit of Rouhani after Modi made a historic visit to Iran in May 2016, making it the first visit of an Indian prime minister to Iran after 15 years.

After his arrival in Delhi, President Rouhani will be accorded a ceremonial reception on February 17. He will then have meetings with the president and the prime minister.

“During the forthcoming visit of the president of Iran, both sides would review the progress achieved in bilateral relations and also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest,” MEA officials said.

Rouhani will also deliver an address at a Delhi-based think tank on February 17.

Rouhani is the seventh president of Iran, serving since August 3, 2013. He holds a doctorate in law and education in the Qom Seminary as an ijtihad and represents Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in the National Security Council.

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