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Iran's Rohani In India To Seek Investment

Iranian President Hassan Rohani waves to onlookers after his arrival at Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad, India, on February 15.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has embarked on a three-day visit to India, during which he is expected to seek Indian investment for the development of the port of Chabahar and other infrastructure projects.

Rohani arrived on February 15 in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and businessmen.

He was due to address a Muslim congregation in Hyderabad on February 16 before heading to New Delhi the following day for talks with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The two sides were expected to sign a series of agreements in the trade and economic sectors, including one allowing India to run operations in the first phase of the Chabahar project.

The plan is for India to equip and operate two berths in the port with an investment of $85.21 million on a 10-year lease, the Reuters news agency reported.

Access Via Chabahar

During a meeting with cabinet officials in Tehran before heading to India, Rohani said on February 15 that "transit [from] Chabahar and India's access to both Afghanistan and Central Asia through Chabahar is one of the most important issues when it comes to relations between Iran and India."

In December, Iran officially opened an extension of Chabahar, which Tehran hopes will become a key transit hub for landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The extension required an investment of $1 billion, including $235 million from India.

Further stages of development are due to expand the Chabahar port over the next 14 years, but the project has been slow to materialize.

New Delhi has said it could spend up to $500 million for the development of the port along with roads and railway lines in order to get access to the Afghan and Central Asian markets while bypassing rival Pakistan.

Pakistan has banned India from transporting goods through its territory to Afghanistan.

Analysts say Chabahar, which is Iran's only oceanic port, could also challenge Pakistan's Gwadar port, some 80 kilometers from Chabahar, which is being developed with Chinese investment.

With reporting by Reuters and IRNA