Hours after President Donald Trump announced US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Massoud Rezvanian Rahaghi, Tehran’s envoy to New Delhi, said if European partners and others stick to promises and commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), then Iran too will fulfil its commitments, and oil trade with India will not be affected.
In an exclusive conversation with The Indian Express Wednesday, Rahaghi — he is the Deputy Chief of Mission and has been officiating as Ambassador following the departure of Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari — said since development of the Chabahar port is of strategic importance to India, it should not be affected by “any political cause or excuse”.
“To us, strategic interests need strategic decisions and actions in a timely manner,” he said.
Rahaghi, who served as a soldier in Iran’s army in 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war and later as a diplomat in India in 2010 (when the first set of sanctions kicked in), said there could be collisions and cooperation between India and US, India and Iran, Iran and Pakistan, but India has shown that it can “move on a tightrope and keep balance”.
Given the ups and downs, he said it is important to work together to achieve sustainability by minimising risks and challenges. He also offered solutions to “immunise” the relationship and make the ties more “sustainable and durable”.
“Since the European Union together with other partners like China and Russia are still supporting the JCPOA, there is still a great deal of opportunity for this nuclear deal to continue. If these partners in the JCPOA fulfil their commitments, Iran will also continue to fulfil its commitments. Although one country has left, this international agreement will not fall down as long as other members respect their obligations. So as declared by our President last night, within the coming weeks we will discuss with our partners about this issue,” Rahaghi said.
“Having said that, if the European partners and others stick to their promises and commitments, one could expect that oil trade and shipping would not be affected as it happened some years ago. Therefore, oil trade can be done easily without much concern,” he said.
His comments reflect the thinking in India that since Europe is going to stick to JCPOA, payments for oil supplies can be made in Euros through European banks. Similarly, European insurance companies and shipping arrangements can be used to transport oil to India. Iran is India’s third-largest source of crude oil, as per latest data.
On the Chabahar port, Rahaghi said, “We regularly hear that engagement in development of this port is of strategic importance for India. This, irrespective of President Trump’s decision and the approach of the US towards such cooperation, means that India’s engagement in the development of Chabahar should not be affected by any political cause or excuse. To us, strategic interests need strategic decisions and actions in a timely manner.”
The comments on Chabahar are crucial since India has invested in it strategically to access Afghanistan and bypass Pakistan. Iran has also invited China to participate in the project, raising eyebrows in Delhi.
On balancing India’s relations with others such as the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, Rahaghi said, “Each of us has its own life with different challenges, difficulties and opportunities. In some areas, there are some collisions among these, while in other areas, there could be cooperation. This happens between India and the US, this happens between India and Iran, this happens between Iran and Pakistan. But India has shown that it can move on a tightrope and keep balance. India has relations with the US, Saudi, Pakistan and others, but it does not mean that you cannot cooperate with others.”
On India-Iran relations and the need to insulate it from risks like sanctions in future, he said: “It is important to work together to achieve sustainability through minimising risks and challenges. We should immunise these relations through adoption of necessary instruments and mechanisms, since risks are always around. If this happens, certainly our relations will be more sustainable and durable. This requires concluding some agreements, setting up banking relations, opening new transaction routes and helping our markets and business communities know each other’s potentials and needs. Iran and India enjoy a rich history with common grounds and roots supported by deep cultural relations. This, together with great economic potential, could make our relations a big success and a great symbol of friendship in the world and the region.”
On Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “India has always maintained that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy by respecting Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy as also the international community’s strong interest in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. All parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to the JCPOA.”