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Iranian Foreign Minister to visit next week amid unrest in Gulf.
Jan 28, 2022

India is expected to host Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian next week, close on the heels of the India-Central Asia summit, amid tension in the Gulf region that could adversely impact energy prices and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
This would be the Iranian foreign minister’s maiden visit since his appointment last year. The agenda of the visit will include the Afghan situation, transit to Afghanistan and Central Asia, current developments in West Asia following the UAE-Houthi battle and trade ties, according to people aware of the matter.
The other issue that will figure high on the agenda of talks between the visiting minister and his Indian counterpart is the optimum use of Chabahar Port. While Iran will help in the transit of Indian wheat consignment to Afghanistan, the Taliban regime under Pakistan’s influence might try to limit India’s access to the port.
India is extremely keen to use the port for connectivity to Central Asia. India, Iran and Afghanistan had entered into a trilateral arrangement for the use of Chabahar Port under the erstwhile Ghani government. Later, India-Iran-Uzbekistan formed a trilateral for the use of the strategically located port and there was speculation that Afghanistan might join to make it a quadrilateral of sorts.
Besides, a preferential trade agreement with Iran is on the cards. India is keen to push the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for connectivity to Russia via Iran. There are plans by India, Iran and Russia to link the Chabahar Port with the INSTC which would also enable the Central Asian states to access the Indian Ocean Region via the port. Iran’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a member could further bolster India-Iran ties in the region.
Ahead of the visit, Amir-Abdollahian sent Republic Day greetings and called for expansion of all-out relations. “Warm wishes to my colleague Indian FM@DrSJaishankar and the government and people of the Republic of India as they celebrate their Republic Day. Will continue to work towards further expansion of all-out relations, bilaterally, regionally and at international fora,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
The recent developments in the Gulf are a cause for worry for India as the situation might lead to a surge in oil prices if the conflict lingers and spreads. Besides, the developments may once again sharpen divergences between various actors in the region, requiring India to bring all its experience in balancing its approach which has been appreciated by all states in the region. India enjoys enormous goodwill across the Arab world.
Iran, like India, favours an inclusive regime in Kabul that comprises representatives from all ethnic communities. The issue is expected to figure high on the agenda of Jaishankar’s meeting with Amir-Abdollahian. The two had met twice last year.
Iran, which has centuries-old cultural and political influence in Afghanistan as a neighbour, does not want to play second fiddle to Pakistan. It is keen to push representation of Hazaras – Shias, who account for 10 per cent of Afghanistan’s population – in Kabul’s power structure and safeguard their future.