Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday arrived in Iran on a two-day visit, which will see India and the Persian Gulf nation working on enhancing economic partnership that includes a possible deal on developing the strategic Chabahar port.
"Reached Iran, a land with whom India shares civilisational ties. Hope to enhance economic partnership between our nations. I also hope my Iran visit further cements cultural and people-to-people ties between India and Iran," Modi tweeted.
The first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Islamic nation in the last 15 years, Modi was received at the Mehrabad International Airport here by Iran's Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyebnia, after which he left for a local Gurudwara to meet people of Indian origin in Tehran.
Formal talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled for tomorrow morning after a ceremonial welcome for the Prime Minister. Rouhani will also host a lunch for him.
Modi will also call on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well before his return. Ahead of his arrival, Modi in a series of tweets said, "Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority."
"My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon'ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership," the Prime Minister added.
Besides signing a deal on development of Phase-1 of the Chabahar port, India is looking at doubling oil imports from the Persian Gulf nation, which a few years back was its second-biggest oil supplier, as well as making progress on getting rights to develop a giant gas field in the energy-rich country.
India's Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari will also be present there for the signing of the agreement on Chabahar port.
Post-sanctions Iran has seen a flurry of diplomatic and business activities with leaders from China to Korea courting Tehran.
In the run-up to Modi's visit, Transport Minister Gadkari, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Tehran.
Stating that he looked forward to the conclusion of the Chahbahar agreement during his visit, the Prime Minister said "India and Iran enjoy civilisational ties and have shared interest in the peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region."
Modi began his crucial two-day visit to the energy-rich nation by offering his obeisance at the Iran capital city's only functioning Gurdwara.
He will also inaugurate an International Conference on 'retrospect and prospect' of India and Iran relations.
"I am looking forward to my visit to Iran today & tomorrow, at the invitation of President Rouhani," he added.
In an interview to Iran's IRNA news agency before his arrival here, Modi said the two countries have "always focused to add strength to our relations, even during the difficult times. In the current context, both countries can look to expand our cooperation in the fields of trade, technology, investment and infrastructure and energy security."
Stating that India's public and private sector firms were keen on investing in Iran, he said the signing of agreement on development of Chabahar port will provide wider connectivity. Chabahar is a port in South-East Iran that will enable India to bypass Pakistan and open up a route to land-locked Afghanistan with which New Delhi has close security ties and economic interests.
"Lifting of the international sanctions against Iran has opened up immense opportunities for both the countries, especially in the economic sphere," Modi said, adding India is keen to enhance its investment in the Persian Gulf nation and also welcomes flow of capital and investments from there.
The energy sector, he said, was one of the most important dimensions of bilateral economic ties and with investment in development of Farzad-B gas field, the relationship would go beyond the buyer-seller dealings to being genuine partners.
On impending meetings with Iranian leaders, Modi said: "Iran is part of our extended neighbourhood, an important nation in the region and one of India's valuable partners. "We are connected with each other by the shared history and civilisational ties. We have shared interest in peace, stability and prosperity of the region. Combating the menace of international terrorism and radical ideologies is a common challenge."
He further said taking concrete steps for enhancing regional connectivity is one of the most important and promising dimensions of the ties between India and Iran.
"Building a genuine energy partnership, cooperation in the infrastructure, ports, railway and petrochemicals sectors and developing the age-old civilisational ties through people-to-people exchanges in the modern times will also be a priority," Modi said.