AFP: Iran's foreign minister is to begin a three-day visit to India Sunday for talks following New Delhi's decision to launch discussions on securing gas to fuel its energy-hungry economy.
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi will address the India-Iran Joint Business Council Meeting Monday before holding talks with his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday. AFP

NEW DELHI - Iran's foreign minister is to begin a three-day visit to India Sunday for talks following New Delhi's decision to launch discussions on securing gas to fuel its energy-hungry economy.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi will address the India-Iran Joint Business Council Meeting Monday before holding talks with his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Kharazzi will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his three-day stay, the statement said.

No details were given about the agenda but analysts expect the import of natural gas to be a key topic of discussion.

The Iranian minister's visit comes after the Indian cabinet earlier this month permitted the oil ministry to open talks to secure gas supplies and help ease heavy dependence on imported fuel.

Iran holds 27.5 trillion cubic meters (971.2 trillion cubic feet) of gas reserves, ranking second in the world after Russia.

Three possible pipelines to India are being discussed -- from Iran through Pakistan, from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan and from Myanmar through Bangladesh.

Negotiations on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline began in 1994 but little headway was made due to tensions between Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since gaining independence in 1947 from Britain.

The prospective pipeline figured in talks Singh had with his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri this week during the first bilateral visit by an Indian Foreign Minister to Pakistan in more than 15 years.

Advocates of a pipeline through Pakistan say it would help solidify bilateral ties.

India's burgeoning economy is expected to need 400 million cubic meters (14,125 million cubic feet) of gas per day by 2025, up from 90 million cubic meters now.

Last year, Iran and India signed a 25-year contract worth 20 billion to 30 billion dollars to export five million to 7.5 million tons per year of LNG or liquefied natural gas from Iran. The project is due to start in 2009.

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