NEW DELHI: Iran has invited India to invest in infrastructure projects worth $8 billion following the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the West and offered the country a stake in expansion of the second phase of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport. An Iranian delegation visited India recently and invited the country to invest in various infrastructure projects in sectors including railways, ports, bridges and rail electrification, Iran’s ambassador to India Gholamreza Ansari told ET in an exclusive interview.

“Given the fact that India maintained commercial contacts with Iran after sanctions were imposed over the nuclear issue, Delhi will get priority when our government invites partners for investments,” Ansari said.

“We are hoping that some of the investments will kick-start soon as Iran offers huge potential,” he said.

The bilateral economic and political partnership is expected to receive a further boost, with foreign minister Sushma Swaraj likely to travel to Iran in the near future to prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to the country. Iran is geographically positioned to serve as India’s gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia, Caucus and Russia.

Ansari said connectivity is one area where Iran and India are hoping to forge a win-win partnership. The two sides are currently negotiating India’s participation in the 600-km rail network between Chabahar port and Zahedan, which will connect India with the Iranian rail network, he said.

Besides, the Persian Gulf country has invited India to invest in the 220-km rail link between Rash and Astara in northwestern Iran which will complete the International North South Transport Corridor and make it operational by linking Iran with Central Asia and Eurasia.

Iran has also invited India to construct a rail link between Masad in northeastern Iran and Herat in Afghanistan, Ansari said. “India will be the end-user in all these projects as these links will connect South Asia’s biggest country with the huge market as well as help in transportation of commodities from the Eurasian region. It is a win-win proposition,” he said.

Ansari referred to the changes in internal procedures in his country since mid-2015, when the two countries signed the memorandum of understanding enabling the $85 million line of credit for expansion of the Chabahar project. The two sides are hoping to conclude contract for this port project in near future.

“There was certain confusion in India’s mind over change in rules of private and public partnership in Iran’s port and maritime affairs. This has been addressed. Due to the geographical proximity between India and Iran we are hoping that coast-tocoast shipping between the two countries can start soon. The distance can be covered in two-three days,” he said.

Iran is also seeking Indian investments in special economic zones of Chabahar and the issue of Indian involvement in Chabahar port was discussed threadbare when the Iranian President met Modi in Ufa, Russia in July last year.

The oil and gas sector is another area of cooperation between India and Iran. Before the sanctions imposed by the West, Iran was the second largest supplier of crude oil to India.