With energy deals in mind PM Narendra Modi will visit Iran & Qatar, will look to boost ties By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, ET Bureau | 23 Apr, 2016, 12.43AM IST Post a Comment NEW DELHI: Stepping up further engagement with the energy rich and strategically important Persian Gulf and the Arab world Narendra Modi plans separate trips Iran and Qatar in May and June respectively. With Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj making back to back visits to Tehran the PM whose visit has been in works since the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions is now expected to visit Iran in May, authoritative sources indicated to ET. The exact dates for the visit in May are being finalised, sources informed. Following Iran the PM will make a trip to Qatar early June where energy deals and diaspora issues besides regional challenges are expected to dominate the agenda of visit. He is also expected to address a meet of Indian diaspora community at the stadium Doha on the lines of his previous such meets in Dubai, USA, Canada, UK, Australia and China. Indian nationals comprise the largest expatriate community in Qatar While there are indications that the trip to Qatar could be stand alone, there are some speculations that Modi can visit Doha enroute to Washington. Dates of June 4-6 are in the works for the visit to Doha, sources hinted. Qatar will be third Gulf Cooperation Council country that Modi will be visiting after his trips to UAE last August and Saudi Arabia this April that yielded substantial results in counter-terror initiatives and investments. Modi's visit to Tehran is billed to be a landmark one and a move that will also balance Delhi's policy in the region as it has expanded its ties with the Arab world. The visit could see some key outcome documents in connectivity projects (that would give India much needed access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and beyond) and energy partnerships. This may include Delhi-Tehran-Kabul trilateral agreement for Transport and Transit Corridors or the Chabahar Agreement that will operationalize the strategic port for the three countries giving India the gateway to Central Asia, Russia and beyond in absence of transit rights through Pakistan; the commercial contract on Chabahar as well as the modalities for extending $ 150 million credit for Chabahar Port for making jetties and berths by India. India would make another $ 20 bn investment for the Chabahar port complex including SEZ. An Indo-Iranian arrangement on counter-terror and defence could be another highlight of PM's Tehran trip where two sides would focus on stability in West Asia besides Afghanistan -- a common challenge for both Delhi and Tehran. The visit is also expected to give momentum to the International North South Transport Corridor -- India is in an initial signatory to this along with Iran and Russia. Pact for Indian investments in Iranian railways which will be key links in the transport corridors through that country could also be expected during the PM trip. In the energy sector the two sides could finalise the deal for India's participation in the Farzad-B gas field. While Iran is seeking Indian investments in both upstream and downstream sectors including petrochemicals and fertilisers Tehran is keen to invest in refinery, petro-chemical and oil reserves in India. It may be recalled that the current Emir of Qatar was in India on his maiden trip abroad as the monarch of the Gulf state in March 2015. This was also the first visit of the Head of State of an Arab country after Modi took charge as PM and later he extended an invite to PM to visit Doha. India sources nearly 80% of its global import of LNG from Qatar and this visit could witness some announcements by Qatar to invest in key Indian sectors. While the current volume of Qatar's FDI in India is modest, Qatar's Sovereign Wealth Fund [Qatar Investment Authority (QIA)] and other State-owned entities, as well as private investors in Qatar are keenly looking at attractive investment options in infrastructural sectors in India in various sectors, including real estate/construction, roads/highways, airports/airlines, ports; LNG, petrochemicals and fertilizers; and tourism/hospitality. Meanwhile many are not aware that India has a growing defence relationship with Qatar.