Chandigarh: Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to initiate a dialogue with Iran for greater trade ties between business communities in Punjab and the Middle East.

In a letter to the Prime Minister ahead of his visit to Iran, he said "strong possibilities have emerged for greater trade ties between Punjab and the Middle East and West Asia through the land route."

Badal, in his letter copies of which were released to media here, asked the Prime Minister to initiate talks with Iran for greater trade between business communities in Punjab and the Middle East.

The Deputy Chief Minister also asked the Prime Minister to take up with his Iranian counterpart issues involving concerns and sentiments of Sikhs and other Punjabis settled in that country. There has been a strong feeling in the minds of Sikhs that some kind of regular cultural exchange programme should be put in place, he said.

"The Iranian government should be requested to facilitate this process through issuance of special group visa in coordination with elected religious body of the Sikhs, the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC)," Badal said.

The Sikhs have strong cultural and emotional bonds with Iran as Guru Nanak Dev visited the place during the course of his journey to holy Mecca.

Badal said the Sikhs in Iran had been requesting that they may be allowed ownership rights on their property and business establishments.

"This will give them a feeling of greater security and encourage them to place even greater stakes in that country."You may kindly take up this issue with the Iranian government," the Deputy CM requested the PM.

(Agencies)

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