May 10 2012
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Iran, India seal trade deals, eye $24b trade
The two countries which enjoy centuries-old relations are also seeking to increase annual trade to $24 billion in the medium term.
All this comes despite the fact that the U.S. has put a great pressure on India to curtail its trade with Iran and even sent its top diplomat to New Delhi to convince India to reduce oil import from Iran.
Indian officials say the country--which relies on imports for three-quarters of its crude needs--has to buy from Iran to meet growing local demand for oil.
India now imports between $10 billion and $12 billion of crude oil from Iran annually.
In February, Iran agreed to accept payment in Indian rupees for up to 45% of its oil exports to India, and the countries have set up a credit window between Indian and Iranian state-owned banks.
India on Wednesday gave a strong signal that it would scale up its commercial engagement with Tehran possibly through a bilateral preferential trade pact, the Economic Times reported.
The Iranian trade delegation's visit to New Delhi coincided with U.S. Secretary States Hillary Clinton's trip to India. At a joint press conference with Clinton on Tuesday, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said Iran is "one of the critical destinations for our external trade".
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, Peter Vrooman, declined to comment on the Iranian trade delegation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Yahya al Es'hagh, president of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Mines, said, "We don't have anything to do with the visit of Hillary Clinton. We are very happy that we are doing our own business."
"The fact is that the economies of India and Iran should work together. Others like or do not like, we should work together and everybody should think for their interests," the Economic Times quoted Es'hagh as saying.
The 56-memebr Iranian trade delegation, which included government officials, and representatives from private and state-owned companies, will wrap up its six-day visit Friday.
Rafeeque Ahmed, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organizations, said private business groups had negotiated deals on agricultural commodities for shipment starting as early as this month, according to the WSJ.
Es'hagh didn't disclose the size of the deals, but said both nations were looking to step up annual trade to $24 billion in the medium term from $14 billion now.
An Indian delegation of exporters traveled to Iran earlier this year to showcase products.
Transactions in the Iranian rial and in Indian rupees through the credit window already have begun, Es'hagh said.
Indian Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar on Tuesday assured the Iran business persons of resolving payment problems, including setting up of Parsian Bank in India. © Tehran Times 2012
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