“The future of India-Iran trade relations is very promising, even though there will be difficulties in the beginning. But in our talks today, I observed that the spirit among officials and traders here is positive,” said Yahya Ale-Eshagh, the president of Tehran Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mines. After meeting with business leaders Tuesday, the team will head for India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, on Wednesday.
Trade delegates said they hoped to increase annual bilateral trade from $ 15 billion to $25 billion over the next four years.
The irony of their visit coinciding with Clinton’s discussions with India this week to cut back on its oil imports from Iran was not lost on those at the traders conference. Iran is India’s second-largest source of oil, after Saudi Arabia.
“Together, the potential of trade cooperation between the two countries can become an economic force to reckon with. That is why there are so many vested interests who do not want this to succeed,” Saif Mahmood, a member of the legal group formed to assist bilateral trade, said at the conference.
Clinton’s trip to India followed a harrowing week of diplomacy in Beijing negotiating the fate of activist Chen Guangcheng. She stopped in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, over the weekend to meet with the country’s dueling female political leaders, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the former head of the government, Khaleda Zia. Clinton also met with famed microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus.
On Sunday, she flew just over the border to Kolkata, a historic city that was once the capital of the British Indian empire.
Clinton’s motorcade raced from the airport to the city, passing a stretch of farmland dotted with office buildings under construction, signals of West Bengal’s ambition to become an investment hub for tech companies.
At the town hall meeting, held at a girls school, the moderator and members of the audience implored Clinton to run for U.S. president in 2016.
“I’m very flattered, but I feel like it’s time for me to step off the high wire,” she said. “I’ve been involved at the highest level of American politics for 20 years now. I’d like to come back to India and just wander around without having the streets be closed and a lot of security around.”
Clinton met for nearly an hour with one of the most famous women in India, Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state and a critical ally of the ruling Congress party. Banerjee, who is also known as “Didi,” meaning older sister, ended 34 years of Communist rule in West Bengal last year.
“I know for myself how difficult it is for women to get elected anywhere,” Clinton said in Kolkata. “When I meet a woman who’s broken through those barriers . . . we share a common bond, if you will, having gone through the fire of electoral politics.”