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Bilateral talks at sidelines of SCO

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India and Iran will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Bishkek to be held on June 13-14.

The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Hassan Rouhani will take place late Thursday evening, sources have confirmed to India Today TV.

This would be the first meeting between the leadership of the two countries after Prime Minister Modi resumed office. Earlier, during the thick of elections, then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that any decision on Iran and its oil import to India would be taken after the elections.

With tough US sanctions and no elbow room for a compromise on the ‘zero oil from Iran’ policy of Washington, India did not place an order for oil since June. This is an issue that has severely concerned Tehran.

Sources say while this would be the first meeting post elections, it would not be a meeting to figure out solutions on an immediate basis but more so space for both sides to put their opinion, views and difficulties forward. There are major challenges ahead in how India intends to walk the fine balance of providing diplomatic support to Iran and yet not exposing itself to difficulties with the US.

Conversation between Modi and Rouhani “will focus on how they intend to move forward”, said a source.

India is very clear and will explain it to Tehran that it cannot afford to expose its banks, PSUs, oil companies to US sanctions. In return for Tehran’s understanding, India will see how best it can diplomatically support the Persian nation, including its right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

India also has to consider its stakes in the Chabahar port which is crucial to all stakeholders in Afghanistan and provides an alternative to Pakistan. The US understands the strategic importance of that and therefore the waiver to the construction and supply of essential material through that route.

But for Iran, it does not want to see its role as an energy supplier diminished. For now, India has looked at all options to cover for the oil that was to be supplied by Iran. India has been assured energy security from other West Asian oil giants and from the United States.

Modi and US President Trump are also to meet this month end on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. India would not want to ruffle feathers before that meeting.

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