Satisfied with action against BJP spokespersons: Iran Foreign Minister

Satisfied with action against BJP spokespersons: Iran Foreign Minister

PM Modi talks of ‘long-standing links’

Iran is satisfied that the Indian government has dealt with those responsible for comments on Prophet Muhammed, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said during his official meetings in Delhi on Wednesday, the first such visit by a dignitary from an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member country since the controversy erupted.

On Sunday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Indian Ambassador to condemn the remarks, one of more than a dozen countries to protest bilaterally. The BJP had sacked two spokespersons over the issue.

Mr. Abdollahian, who is on his first visit to India since he was appointed last year, met with National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval and held bilateral talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, where the two sides signed an agreement on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters. He also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who “recalled long-standing civilisational and cultural links between India and Iran”, an official statement said, adding that the Prime Minister looked forward to welcoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at an “early date”. In addition, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the two Ministers “reiterated the need for a representative and inclusive political system in support of a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan.”

The visiting Foreign Minister will be in Mumbai on Thursday and then will travel to Hyderabad.

“[We] reviewed our bilateral cooperation, including in trade, connectivity, health and people to people ties,” said Mr. Jaishankar in a tweet after the talks, adding that they had exchanged views on global and regional issues, including the six-nation 2015 nuclear agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Afghanistan and Ukraine.

In a statement issued in Farsi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said the Minister had raised the issue of the controversial remarks by members of the ruling party with Mr. Doval, and was satisfied by the response he received.

“Since the beginning of my arrival in India, I have felt that the Indian authorities strongly reject the arbitrary action taken by one of their officials,” a translated version of a tweet issued separately said.

The NSA’s office did not comment on the conversation or issue any statement.

The statement said the two sides had discussed proposals, especially on the Chabahar port, the International North South Transport Corridor, as well as trade and investment, adding that Mr. Abdollahian had announced that Iran has “no restrictions” on expanding relations with India.

The MEA statement said “the sides agreed that the Chabahar Port has provided much needed sea access to landlocked Afghanistan and has also emerged as a commercial transit hub for the region, including for central Asia,” and agreed that officials would meet shortly to address “operational aspects” of the project.

However, the statements made no reference to whether India and Iran would discuss restoring some of the trade and investment deals in energy, including oil supplies from Iran, and Indian investment in Iranian oil and gas reserves, both of which came to a standstill in 2019, after the U.S. Trump administration threatened sanctions.

Timing significant

The timing of the Foreign Minister’s visit is significant as Iran is in a clash with the International Atomic Energy Agency this week, as the IAEA Board of Governors are meeting in Vienna until June 10, where a report on Iran’s nuclear record is being discussed. After the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. introduced a resolution condemning Iran’s nuclear technology progress and “insufficient cooperation” with the IAEA, Iran’s Atomic Energy board announced on Wednesday that it was shutting off the IAEA’s cameras at a nuclear site in protest.

The statements also did not expand on the nature of discussions on Taliban, but Mr. Abdollahian was received at the airport by Joint Secretary (Iran Pakistan Afghanistan) J.P. Singh, the official who travelled to Kabul last week to meet with Taliban officials, including the Taliban’s acting Foreign Minister Mottaqi.

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit also follows a week after the visit of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, in an indication that India is attempting to walk the balance between the two West Asian rivals who are also sparring over Iran’s nuclear programme. Mr. Modi had met Mr. Gantz as well during his trip to India, and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, who had to put off his visit to India in March this year as he contracted COVID, is expected to visit in the next few months as well.

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