India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar visited Iran for the 19th Session of the Joint Commission Meeting between the two countries. The Joint Commission, which is co-chaired by Foreign Ministers of India and Iran, is a mechanism to carry forward the deep ties between these two friendly countries. During his visit, Dr. Jaishankar also called on the President of Iran Dr.. Hassan Rouhani and apprised him about the developments in the Joint Commission Meeting. The Indian Foreign Minister also met the Secretary of Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani and Minister for Roads and Urban Development of Iran, Mohammad Eslami.
These meetings are geared towards strengthening the bilateral ties between India and Iran at a time when Iran is under severe economic strain due to continued stand-off between Iran and the United States. Notably, this standoff has resulted in stringent economic and political sanctions on Iran by the US, which unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Iran Nuclear Deal.
In this ‘very productive’ Joint Commission Meeting, the two sides reviewed the comprehensive nature of India-Iran ties and India and Iran agreed on accelerating the Chabahar port project in Iran. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif expressed his satisfaction on the ‘excellent discussions’ on India-Iran bilateral ties and reiterated the ‘ancient, historic and unbreakable’ nature of the relationship between the two countries.
Prominent issues discussed during the meeting included India-Iran cooperation in the field of connectivity, trade and commerce. The two sides also exchanged their views on regional and global issues affecting India and Iran and expressed their mutual satisfaction at the progress in operationalising the Shahid Beheshti Port in Chabahar. Notably, the Chabahar Port has been recognised as having the potential to act as a gateway between the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe. The port on the energy-rich nation’s southern coast is easily accessible from India’s western coast and is increasingly seen as a counter to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, which is being developed with Chinese investment and is located at distance of around 80-km from Chabahar.
The Foreign Ministers of India and Iran also welcomed the utilisation of the Chabahar port for exports from Afghanistan and they further discussed the possible ways to promote this port for enhancing wider regional connectivity for the purpose of trade and transit.
During this Joint Commission Meeting, India and Iran have also reiterated their support for strengthening their bilateral trade and commerce and in this context agreed to hold an early meeting of the India-Iran Joint Working Group on Trade in order to finalise the Preferential Trade Agreement, Bilateral Investment Treaty, and promote India-Iran cooperation in customs matters.
Importantly, India and Iran have reiterated their shared views on the threat posed by terrorism and they have accordingly called for immediate end to all kinds of support to terror sanctuaries. They further expressed their support for efforts to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.
Another notable outcome of the 19th India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting was the agreement between the two countries to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of their bilateral Treaty of Friendship in 2020. In this context, India and Iran have planned to promote exchanges between their Parliamentarians and organise cultural festivals.
At a time when India’s oil import from Iran has been severely impacted due to the stringent US sanctions, this Joint Commission meeting exemplifies the resolute efforts of India and Iran to continue forging their deep ties in a multi-faceted manner. The two sides have regularly met in the past at the highest levels and reiterated their commitments to this relationship. The Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani had made a significant visit to India last year. The Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had met the Iranian President in New York on the side-lines of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September this year, during which they had discussed the India-Iran bilateral relations. The recently concluded Joint Commission Meeting is bound to further accentuate the India-Iran bilateral ties.
Script: Dr. Asif Shuja, Strategic Affairs Analyst on Iran