At a time when the US administration led by President Donald Trump is exercising maximum pressure on Iran and calling it the biggest state sponsor of terrorism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and reiterated India’s support to give priority to “diplomacy, dialogue and confidence-building” for maintaining peace and security in the Persian Gulf.
From India’s strategic perspective, they discussed operationalisation of the Chabahar port at the meeting. “They especially mentioned operationalisation of Chabahar Port and noted its importance as a gateway to and for the landlocked Afghanistan and the Central Asian region,” an official statement said. They also agreed to mark the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations in 2020.
After meeting Rouhani on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the General Assembly, Modi tweeted, “Delighted to meet President @HassanRouhani. We had in-depth discussions on the full range of India-Iran ties, and regional & global matters.”
Major source of oil import cut off
India, the world’s third biggest oil consumer, meets more than 80 per cent of its oil needs through imports. Iran was its third-largest supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia till recently. The six-month-long exemptions from US sanctions to India and seven other countries to buy oil from Iran expired on May 2 as Washington did not extend it. India has not been able to buy oil from Iran after that. The Modi-Rouhani meet comes in this backdrop.
The MEA statement also said they discussed bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and global developments of mutual interest. “Noting that India and Iran shared old and civilisational ties, the two leaders positively assessed the progress in bilateral relations since their first meeting at Ufa in 2015,” it said.
They “discussed bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on the situation in the region”, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
The two leaders could not hold a scheduled meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in June due to scheduling issues.
At the US President’s press conference on Wednesday, both Trump and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had talked up the actions against Iran.
The tension between the two countries came to the fore when on September 24, ahead the bilateral meeting between Modi and Trump, the US President while responding to questions on Pakistan being the epicentre of terrorism said, “You mentioned Pakistan, Iran will have to be on top of the list because if you really look at the terror states…” This is contrary to Delhi’s position with regard to its neighbours.
Tension between Iran and the US on Tehran’s nuclear programme has escalated in recent weeks, since Iran has been accused by the US and its allies of attacking two key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.