New Delhi: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is set to make a two-day visit to India starting Sunday. He will meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to discuss the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, and also push New Delhi to resume oil purchases from Tehran as well as expedite the Chabahar Port Project, ThePrint has learnt.
This will be Abdollahian’s maiden India visit since taking charge as Iran’s FM from his predecessor Mohammad Javad Zarif in August 2021. He will arrive in New Delhi Sunday evening, 30 January and depart Tuesday, 1 February, sources told ThePrint.
Abdollahian has been holding regular talks with Jaishankar since his appointment. Both ministers held their first conversation in September 2021 and have regularly discussed the situation in Afghanistan.
The ministers will hold bilateral talks Monday, sources said.
During a telephonic conversation between the two earlier this year, Iran had offered to assist India in sending wheat, medicines and other such humanitarian aid to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. India has been taking help from Iran’s Mahan Air to send back stranded Afghan people as the situation in Afghanistan changes, and also to send humanitarian aid.
While Iran has also been working closely with Pakistan over dealing with the Taliban regime, it shares similar views as India’s on the Islamist government forming an inclusive administration in the war-torn country.
In its several rounds of talks with the Taliban leaders, Tehran has made it clear to Kabul that it intends to see an inclusive government in Afghanistan — its eastern neighbour — while the security of its borders is of utmost importance.
Talks around this issue will be held in India during the upcoming visit, sources said.
Two months ago, Iran’s national security head Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Secretary, Supreme National Security Council, participated in the Regional Security Dialogue, hosted by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Shamkhani had then spoken strongly about the need of the Taliban regime to create an inclusive government, taking into account the participation of all ethnic groups there, which continue to remain deeply divided despite the end of the US-led war in August 2021.
On Tuesday, during a meeting on its neighbours, Amir-Abdollahian said Iran will only recognise the Taliban rule in Afghanistan when it establishes an all-inclusive government. “The Afghan side was clearly told that the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan is of prime significance for Iran and that Tehran will take action on recognizing the new Afghan government and handing over its embassy after the formation of the inclusive government,” said an Iran foreign ministry statement.
Oil export resumption, Chabahar Port
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar was one of the first foreign dignitaries to visit Iran when President Ebrahim Raisi was named as the new head of the government. Since then Tehran had been hoping that New Delhi would resume purchasing crude from Iran, which came to a halt in May 2019 under pressure from the then Donald Trump administration that imposed stringent economic sanctions on Iran.
Once Iran’s topmost oil buyer, India is yet to restart the purchases. This will be one of the topmost items on FM Amir-Abdollahian’s agenda as he meets Jaishankar next week, sources said.
He will also be making a case for India to expedite its plans in developing the entire Chabahar Port Project that has suffered massive delays, according to sources.
India’s failure to make progress in the development of Farzad B gas field also led to it losing the contract to a local firm there.
In 2008, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the Indian public sector oil and gas corporation, had discovered the gigantic gas field spread across the maritime boundary of Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
In February 2018, during the then-Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to India, New Delhi and Tehran had decided to move beyond the traditional buyer-seller relationship in their energy partnership, and expedited negotiations on Farzad B. But in May 2021, Iran decided to go ahead with the project on its own, without India’s cooperation, giving the contract to a local company.
The upcoming visit is also going to be closely watched by the UAE and Saudi Arabia as they remain engaged in a fierce fight with the Houthi rebels, who are seen to be backed by Iran.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)