India building bridges with Islamic world
12 December 2002
The Hindustan Times
Iranian President Mohammed Seyed Khatami will be the chief guest at this year's Republic Day celebrations in 2003. The Invitation is seen as part of India's attempt to reach out to the Islamic world. Diplomatic sources say India is building bridges with Iran, which is regarded as the democratic voice of the Islamic world. Khatami, with his liberal outlook, has also taken a firm stand against terrorism and New Delhi has received support from Iran on Kashmir. Besides, Iran has supported India's stand on Pakistan-sponsored cross border terrorism. The two sides will vow to expand cooperation against terrorism and will discuss ways to expedite a comprehensive convention on international terrorism at the United Nations. The discussions with the Iranian leader will focus on strengthening Indo-lranian strategic ties besides expanding economic ties. India is also interested in accelerating the consultations on the transfer of Iranian gas to India. Iran desires to have cooperative approach with India on International political and security issues. There is a growing convergence between the two nations on many international issues such as Afghanistan and Palestine. Iran also shares India's concerns on the need to check the resurgence of pro Taliban elements in Afghanistan and are against the long term presence of external forces in Afghanistan. The two countries have voiced principled support to the Palestinian cause and to the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had signed a Tehran declaration during his visit to Iran in 2001 and a Delhi declaration outlining the future of Indo-Iranian cooperation may be signed during President Khatami's visit. The visit also assumes importance as this will be first major visit by the leader of an Islamic country after the elections in Gujarat.