External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is expected to travel to Tehran to attend the swearing-in of the newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on August 5.
Mr. Jaishankar had met the President-elect on July 8 when he handed over a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating him on the election victory. “Appreciate [Mr. Raisi’s] warm sentiments for India. Deeply value his strong commitment to strengthen our bilateral ties and expand cooperation on regional and global issues,” Mr. Jaishankar had said after calling on Mr. Raisi. The meeting with Mr. Jaishankar was the first interaction between Mr. Raisi and a foreign dignitary since he won the election on June 19.
The ongoing exchanges acquire significance in view of the escalating violence in Afghanistan.
Work in port of Chabahar
A source from the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed that the visit of Mr. Jaishankar is yet to be formally announced but hinted that the visit is on track. India is expected to fast track the remaining parts of work in the port of Chabahar as it will ensure access to Afghanistan where the Taliban forces have gained a temporary upper hand in their battle against the government of President Ashraf Ghani. Engaging the new President of Iran who served as the Chief Justice also comes in the backdrop of intensifying tension between Iran and Israel.
On July 29, M/T Mercer Street, an Israeli-owned ship was hit by a projectile that killed two crew members. Israeli sources said the ship was targeted near Oman with explosive carrying drones while others have reported that multiple drones were used to target the ship. The incident was interpreted in the western capitals as a punishment by Tehran for a recent Israeli strike on Syria. The crew killed in the incident hailed from Romania and the United Kingdom and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said Iran should end such attacks.
The spokesperson of Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh has condemned the comments of the U.S. and the U.K. and described Iran as the “guarantor of security in the Persian Gulf”. “Having kept silent about repeated terrorist attacks on Iranian ships, they now baselessly accuse Iran. Any anti-Iran adventurism will receive immediate and decisive response,” said Mr. Khatibzadeh in an emphatic comment.
Pause in energy ties
The Indo-Iran high level exchanges are taking place after a pause in energy ties as India had stopped purchasing oil from Iran in May 2019, after the re-imposition of sanctions by the Trump presidency. The freeze in energy ties also affected other sectors of the varied bilateral ties. In May 2021, Iran dumped the ONGC and gave the contract for South Pars gas field to Petropars, a domestic energy giant. It was viewed as a setback to energy cooperation as the ONGC was one of the original explorers in South Pars.
With the departure of the Trump presidency, the energy ties are again expected to increase though much depends on the status of the U.S. sanctions on Iran.