Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in New Delhi Tuesday to confer with the Indian leadership on major energy projects including finalizing a 7.5 billion dollar gas pipeline project despite opposition from the United States, according to the dpa .
The Iranian leader was greeted at the New Delhi airport by India's junior Foreign Minister E Ahamed and will be in the city for a five- hour visit which will wrap up a regional tour that included Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Ahmadinejad is on paying the first visit by an Iranian head of state in five years and was scheduled to call on his counterpart Pratibha Patil and hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later Tuesday.
Ahmadinejad's brief visit to India comes against the backdrop of a chill in bilateral relations over the past two years since India sided with the US to vote against Iran at the IAEA.
Both India and Iran, which have enjoyed traditionally strong ties, with strategic convergence in areas such as Afghanistan now appear keen to mend their ties.
According to Indian foreign ministry officials, Ahmadinejad and Singh will review issues of bilateral, regional and global significance and take stock of the progress on the ambitious Iran- Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline as well as the bilateral Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project.
During talks in Pakistan on Monday, Ahmadinejad had discussed and cleared all hurdles concerning the gas pipeline to India and had agreed to sign a deal soon. The work on the approximately 2,600- kilometre pipeline from Iran's South Pars gasfield will start in 2009.
Besides the IPI pipeline, Singh and Ahmadinejad are also expected to discuss a 22 billion-dollar LNG deal, which was signed during Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's visit to India in 2003.
New Delhi is expected to press Iran to honour the agreement which could not be implemented so far because of differences in the cost of gas.
The situation in connection with the stand-off between Iran and the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme could also come up for discussion between the leaders.
Other areas for talks include the stability in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism and economic and strategic interests in Central Asia, as both countries are observers in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), officials said.
India and Iran have concluded talks to construct a rail link between Chahbahar (in south-eastern Iran) and the Iranian port of Fahraj, Indian media reports said.
The two countries are also planning to co-operate in the development of a North-South rail corridor connecting India and Iran to Russia.
According to Indian analysts, New Delhi has come under pressure from Washington to withdraw from the IPI project as the US believes it would help strengthen Indian-Iranian relations and nullify its efforts to isolate Tehran.
But with the India-US nuclear deal in limbo due to stiff opposition from the Indian government's communist partners, India is keen to secure hydro-carbon sources to meet its burgeoning energy demands as its economy grows.
New Delhi has seen improving relations with US and Iran's archrival Israel over the past years and is keen to repair ties with its traditional ally.
It recently spurned advice from the United States to use its influence and ask Iran to suspend its alleged uranium enrichment activities. New Delhi said it was for the IAEA and not the US to decide whether Iran was making nuclear weapons.
" India and Iran are ancient civilizations whose relations span centuries," a statement from India's Foreign Office said, adding, "Neither country needs any guidance on the future conduct of bilateral relations."