According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the minister is on an official visit to Russia from July 7-9

With Taliban back to making significant gains in neighbouring Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO/US forces, the External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar who is on his way to Russia is making a stopover in Tehran, Iran.

“Although engagement with the upcoming regime change in Iran would be important and may wait; it’s the fast paced developments in Afghanistan that might probably need immediate attention since these would be important aspects of EAM’s discussions between India and Russia that also involves Iran,” Maj Gen NK Bhatia (Retd), tells Financial Express Online.

Stopover In Iran

This is the first visit to Iran by the minister after a regime change in that country. He will be meeting his counterpart Javad Zarif, and the talks will be related to the security situation in Afghanistan, where Taliban is back and is making significant gains. A similar stopover was made last September when the minister was on his way to Moscow.

Expert View On The Iran Stopover

Sharing his views on the stop in Iran, Indian Army veteran Maj Gen NK Bhatia, says, “Indian External Affairs Minister’s hopping visit to Tehran enroute to Moscow on 07 July 2021 should not surprise anyone as it is significant from the perspective of current developments in Iran as well as Afghanistan.

As the latest inputs suggest, Taliban has made major inroads into Northern Afghanistan capturing district after district forcing the Afghan National Army troops to surrender to Taliban. The area being closer to Iran and Tajikistan would surely be a worrying factor for the Iranians as much as the countries North of Afghanistan.”

“Although Iran has been a vocal critic of US and western troop presence within the region and would be happy to witness their withdrawal, the rapid advance of Taliban would surely have surprised Iranians as much as it has surprised other nations,” he opines.

“Of late Russia has emerged as an important player in the power play in Afghanistan. It has played an important role by engaging in talks with Iran as well as Pakistan for a roadmap in Afghanistan post US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It may be recollected that Russian foreign minister had paid a flying visit to Delhi accompanied by Russian special envoy on Afghanistan before his visit to Pakistan in April this year,” Maj Gen NK Bhatia adds.

According to him, “The fact is that India remains interested in Afghanistan and is trying to find ways to stay relevant in the emerging equations in the neighbouring country. With Pakistan being totally opposed to Indian role in Afghanistan, it is but natural that India would explore the options of engagement with Iran and Russia to open up to new equations that emerge in Afghanistan.”

India-Iran Bilateral Relations

For India, this new development in Afghanistan is of major concern as India and Iran have been working together on the Chabahar port project. This is a critical project in the region and has established connectivity with Afghanistan. As has been reported earlier, in the beginning of 2021, India has supplied cranes for the project and has been deeply involved with the development of Phase-I of the Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar.

In 2018, India Ports Global Limited (IPGL) took over the port operations. And until December 2020, 1.75 million tons of bulk cargo and more than 13000 TEUs of container cargo have been handled at this port.

Through the Chabahar Port in 2020, to deal with the desert locusts attack, India had sent 20,000 litres of the pesticide Malathion 96% ULV to Iran. Last year in the midst of the global pandemic of COVID-19, through this port, India had also sent 75,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan as part of the humanitarian aid.

MEA On Russia Visit

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the minister is on an official visit to Russia from July 7-9. He will be meeting his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation and the focus of talks will be on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues as well as the fight against COVID-19. Also, he will meet with Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Yuri Borisov, his counterpart for the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC). A meeting with the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Leonid Slutsky is also scheduled.

The visit is expected to further deepen the ‘Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership’ between India and Russia.

In Moscow, the minister is slated to deliver a speech on “India-Russia ties in a Changing World” at the prestigious Primakov Institute of World Economy & International Relations.