India keen to expand exports to Iran: Mathai

New Delhi: Notwithstanding US pressure on it to reduce engagements with Iran, India on Saturday said it would like to expand India`s exports to Tehran and noted that bilateral trade relations have improved over the last few years.

Briefing reporters ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s visit to Tehran, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that "in recent times the relationship has expanded to include cooperation in diverse fields like hydrocarbons, trade and economic matters, consultations on important international and regional issues, cultural and people-to-people contacts".

Giving details of current trade status between the two countries, Mathai said the total bilateral trade in 2011-12 was USD 15.9 billion, of which imports to India was USD 13.5 billion and exports from India around USD 2.5 billion.

"The balance of trade is still decisively in favour of Iran because of largescale oil purchases and the relatively small level of Indian exports," he said adding "we would certainly like to expand Indian exports to Iran".

On the issue of international sanctions against Iran, he said India has emphasised that it formally accepts only the sanctions which are implemented by the United Nations.

"But given the fact that there are a number of sanctions which have been introduced by other countries, there are problems which arise in terms of banking arrangements for trade, for shipping, insurance, and so on. So, these have had an impact on the level of the trade, particularly in the level of oil imports from Iran," he said.