New Delhi: Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was in India Tuesday to push for enhanced bilateral ties between Tehran and New Delhi amid increasing tensions with Washington against a backdrop of stiff economic sanctions on the country.
“India is one of our most important partners, economic partner, political partner and regional partner,” Zarif said before his meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
“We have regular consultations with India on various issues and I am here to have consultations with my counterpart on the most recent developments in our region as well as bilateral relations,” he added.
On the rising tensions between the US and Iran, Zarif said, “Unfortunately, the US has been escalating the situation unnecessarily. We do not seek escalation but we have always defended ourselves.”
Under Donald Trump, the US has withdrawn from the milestone 2015 nuclear agreement in Iran, which allowed years of western sanctions to be lifted from Tehran in exchange for Iran limiting its suspected development of a nuclear weapon.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran nuclear deal, was signed by the Obama administration in 2015 along with the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. However, Trump walked out of it as he found it inadequate and lacking in teeth.
The US has since threatened to punish any country that conducts business with Tehran.
Focus on infrastructure
Zarif will be meeting Swaraj days after India completely stopped buying oil from Iran following the expiry, on 2 May, of a so-called American waiver that allowed it to purchase over 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran without inviting sanctions.
Iran wants India to now focus on expediting the infrastructure work that New Delhi is involved in, like the flagship Chabahar port project.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been rising ever since Trump’s pullout from the 2015 deal.
Earlier this month, the US said it had deployed a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf to warn Iran against “any attack on US interests or its allies”.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Iran will no longer adhere to the commitment it made under the JCPOA, which continues to enjoy support of the European Union.