By: Kayhan Int’l Staff Writer
Two tweets by two diplomats could perhaps sum up the current nature of Iran-India relations – countries sharing since prehistory, civilizational, cultural, ethnic, lingual, and religious ties which dating from the Avestan-Vedic period flowered during the glory of Muslim rule in the Subcontinent when for several centuries Farsi became the formal language, Persian words found their way into the various vernaculars, and Persian art/architecture influenced the construction of palaces of Hindu rulers and even temples.
India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar who was on his way to Moscow for attending the foreign ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) tweeted on Tuesday:
"A productive meeting with FM J. Zarif during stopover in Tehran; discussed strengthening our bilateral cooperation and reviewed regional developments. Thank him for his gracious hospitality.”
For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted the same day:
"Pleased to host my Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar in Tehran for talks today. Discussed expansion of bilateral relations and trade, and exchanged views on important regional issues. Active engagement with our neighbourhood is our top priority”.
The Zarif-Jaishankar meeting came on the heels of last Saturday’s talks in Tehran between the Defence Ministers of the two countries when India’s Rajnath Singh on his way from Moscow to New Delhi, briefly broke his journey in the Iranian capital to discuss with his Iranian counterpart, Brigadier-General Amir Hatami, bilateral cooperation and regional developments.
Hatami described talks with Singh as excellent, noting that both countries have been involved in the development of Chabahar Port, which links India with landlocked Afghanistan.
Observers see Iran as India’s gateway to the landlocked countries of Central Asia as well, as the two Defence Ministers stressed the historical, civilizational and linguistic ties between Iran and India, marked by extensive people-to-people contacts.
Singh compared the courtesy and hospitality of Iran to the civility and mannerism of his home city and parliamentary constituency, Lucknow, where the harmonious Hindu-Muslim culture is indebted to the Naishapuri dynasty that ruled Awadh for more than a century, ending with the overthrow of Wajed Ali Shah by the British invaders on the threshold of India’s First War of Independence in 1857.
Farsi language continues to be read in Indian academic institutions, and Rajnath Singh lauded Iran’s efforts for supporting Indian nationals, including pilgrims to the holy shrines to Mashhad and Qom, as well as facilitating trade.
Apart from the diplomatic niceties, according to informed sources, Iran, which likes India and China to peacefully settle the current crisis in their relations arising as a result of unmarked borders in the high altitudes of the Himalayas, asked New Delhi not to bow to US pressures, especially concerning oil purchases from the Islamic Republic as well as the Chabahar Port project.
In 2016, Iran, India, and Afghanistan decided to jointly establish a trade route for land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. In February 2019, the Afghanistan-Iran-India trade corridor through Chabahar Port was officially inaugurated.
Iran is a key to the INSTC (International North–South Transport Corridor) – the shortest route from India to Russia via the 7,200 km long multi-modal transport. Iran is planning to increase the capacity of the port from the current 2.5 million tonnes to 8.5 million.
India which for decades was a major importer of Iranian oil, having imported during the 2018-19 period $12.11 billion worth of crude oil from the Islamic Republic, suspended crude imports from Iran in May 2019 under US pressure.
Thus, during the recent talks in Tehran with the two top visiting Indian dignitaries, Iran, which drew their attention to the issue of mistreatment of Muslims in India by anarchic elements, said that as an independent and neutral country, all geared up for a stint as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a two-year period as of January 2021, New Delhi ought to be impartial in its approach to regional and global issues.
India is too great a country to succumb to American bullying, and the moment it stands firm against US meddling to strengthen the age-old cordial relations with Iran, Washington cannot do a damn thing.