With energy deals in mind PM will visit Iran, Qatar

NEW DELHI: Stepping up further engagement with the energy rich and strategically important Persian Gulf and the Arab world, Narendra Modi has planned separate visits to Iran and Qatar in May and June respectively.

With oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj making back to back visits to Tehran, the prime minister, whose visit has been in works since the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions, is now expected to visit Iran in May, sources told ET.

The exact dates are being finalised, sources informed. Iran visit will be followed by Qatar visit early June where energy deals and diaspora issues besides regional challenges are expected to dominate the agenda. He is also expected to address a meeting of Indian diaspora community at the stadium Doha on the lines of his previous such meets in Dubai, USA, Canada, UK, Australia and China.

Indian nationals comprise the largest expatriate community in Qatar. While there are indications that the trip to Qatar could be standalone, there are some speculations that Modi can visit Doha en route to Washington. Doha visit may likely take place during June 4-6, sources hinted.

Qatar will be the third Gulf Cooperation Council country that Modi will be visiting after UAE and Saudi Arabia that yielded substantial results in counterterror initiatives and investments.

Modi’s visit to Tehran is billed to be a landmark one and a move that will also balance Delhi’s policy in the region as it has expanded its ties with the Arab world. The visit could see some key outcome in connectivity projects (that would give India much needed access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia and beyond) and energy partnerships.