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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Strain in ties: Furious Delhi summons Iran envoy, says Zarif’s remarks not on

Tehran had last criticised India after the 2002 Gujarat riots and a decade earlier after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: March 4, 2020 5:58:43 am
Iran on CAA, iran on delhi violence, Iran on Delhi riots, Javad Zarif, delhi violence, iran foreign minister on delhi violence, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is known for his careful choice of words. (File)

A DAY AFTER Iran became the fourth Muslim-majority country to officially react to the riots in Delhi, India on Tuesday summoned Iranian Ambassador in New Delhi Ali Chegeni and lodged a strong protest against, what it called, “unwarranted” remarks by Iranian Foreign minister Javad Zarif.

A diplomat-minister known for his careful choice of words, Zarif had tweeted Monday night: “Iran condemns the wave of organised violence against Indian Muslims. For centuries, Iran has been a friend of India. We urge Indian authorities to ensure the wellbeing of ALL Indians & not let senseless thuggery prevail. Path forward lies in peaceful dialogue and rule of law.”

Responding to this, Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said: “The Iranian Ambassador to India Mr Ali Chegeni was summoned and a strong protest was lodged against the unwarranted remarks made by the Iranian Foreign Minister. It was conveyed that his selective and tendentious characterisation of recent events in Delhi are not acceptable. We do not expect such comments from a country like Iran.”


High stakes for both sides

MUCH is at stake on the strategic front for India in its bilateral ties with Iran, particularly with the US signing a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran is critical for two specific reasons: it meets part of New Delhi’s energy needs, and also lends access to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port.

Tehran had last criticised India after the 2002 Gujarat riots and a decade earlier after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. New Delhi had earlier rejected comments from Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan which had spoken out against the riots over the last week. Malaysia and Bangladesh too had earlier criticised the citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens.

The recent comments have come after six years of Modi government’s outreach to the Islamic world and building diplomatic relationships, especially in West Asia.

Iran has been one of the countries with which New Delhi has proactively engaged in the last few years.

New Delhi and Tehran have maintained close bilateral relationship, which has been strained after India decided to stop buying oil under threat of US sanctions. It has, however, moved ahead with the development plan of the strategically important Chabahar port, having received a waiver from the US. The two sides have also maintained bilateral contact through diplomatic visits.

In 2018-19, India-Iran bilateral trade jumped 23.8 per cent to USD 17.03 billion compared with the previous year. India’s exports to Iran stood at USD 3.5 billion in 2018-19, and imports from Iran were USD 13.5 billion.

In January, Zarif had visited India amid Tehran’s escalating tension with the US administration over killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Sulemani in a US military strike.

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