Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi concluded a two day state visit to Iran on Monday 23 May 2016 where he received a warm welcome by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He also met the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Modi and Rouhani together with their business delegations signed several agreements and MOUs to boast business relations between the two countries.
These included a contract to develop the Iranian Chabahar port for which India will invest $500 million, a trilateral agreement on transport and transit corridor signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran, which Modi said could “alter the course of the history of the region”.
These agreements will facilitate India’s easy access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Europe and Russia. The north-south business corridor offered by Iran will reduce business transport time and cost by at least thirty per cent.
Iranian oil and gas on easy terms and competitive prices will promote India’s industrial growth. India owes 6.4 billion dollars to Iran for oil imports between 2012 to 2015 due to sanctions on bank transactions with Iran
Earlier in April, Modi travelled to Saudi Arabia where he received a royal welcome by King Salman bin Abdulaziz at his Palace. The historic visit paved the way for India and Saudi Arabia to boost economic and business ties.
Saudi business leaders showed keen interest in investing in India’s infrastructure development in areas such as railways, roads, ports, shipping, and energy. Modi also sought deeper involvement of Indian companies in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects.
In a sign of Saudi Arabia recognising India’s growing importance on the world stage, Saudi king conferred his country’s highest civilian honour on PM Modi.
In August 2015, Modi visited UAE, first by an Indian Prime Minister in 34 years. The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in energy and trade and reach out to investors to hardsell India as an attractive business destination. Modi also visited the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, the world’s third largest and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
Modi has also visited several other Muslim countries in past 12 months including a short and surprise visit to Pakistan. More than any political objective, it was also inspired by his business ambitions arranged by the business tycoon Sajjan Jindal, a steel baron who has been active in promoting steel industry ties between the two countries.
Modi’s warming up to the Muslim world is surprising as the current Indian Prime Minister is a hard core Hindu fundamentalist who himself and his political affiliates have a terrible domestic record in relation to the large Muslim minority in the country.
Modi’s infamous role as Chief Minister during riots in his home state of Gujrat can never be forgiven and forgotten by Indian Muslims. He has been criticized heavily for not reigning in his extremist Hindu supporters for creating an intolerant situation for Muslims in India.
He has kept silent after a series of murders of Muslims purportedly linked with the slaughter of cows that his supporters want banned through out the country. His government has also been criticized for rounding up of innocent Muslims on fictitious charges of terrorism, many of whom have been later freed by the courts.
Muslims have also been very critical of closer overt and covert ties with Israel that have been strengthened to a large degree since his Bhatariya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
Yet his dream of making India an economic super power is such that he is not reluctant to embrace any counterpart, Muslims or otherwise in the national interest.