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Rajnath’s Iran visit raises hopes for close ties, Chabahar project

Rajnath’s Iran visit raises hopes for close ties, Chabahar project

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s short visit to Iran, on his way back from Moscow, was aimed at passing the all-important message to the West Asian country that India valued it as an important ally. Further, the idea was to convince Tehran that its ties with New Delhi are not affected by the former’s relations with other countries.

The visit has raised hopes among several policymakers that India may be able to put the crucial Chabahar project back on track.

Experts said that the visit was more a signal to Iran and also the rest of the world that India will chalk out its own foreign policy. “It was to reinforce that India and Iran share a close relationship which goes back to many centuries. The visit shows that India values the deep friendship and that the bilateral ties continue to be not only strong but on the expansion mode”, BJP national spokesperson Narendra Taneja told IN. “India’s relationship with Iran is independent of its otherwise very close and strategic partnership with other countries,” he added.

While insiders said that there was no discussion on the oil trade between the two countries or the development of the much talked about Chabahar project, Singh’s visit was meant to signify continuity of the close association of the two nations.

Recently, China and Iran inked a strategic $400 billion deal as the latter dropped India from the crucial Chabahar rail project which connects Chabahar port and Zahedan.

Sources said that despite China’s move, India is not out of the project and that the latter will do “all it takes to retrieve” the situation.

“Had a very fruitful meeting with Iranian defence minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami in Tehran. We discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan and the issues of bilateral cooperation,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

The visit also gains significance as Singh was returning after attending a three-day meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization defence ministers.

The SCO was set up in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. India is also its member.

Importantly, the news of Singh’s visit to Iran was also adequately covered by the Iranian media, which also highlighted that the two countries enjoy commonalities and friendly ties.

“In a meeting between India's Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh and Ambassador Ali Chegini of Iran, the two referred to the bright historical relations and friendship between the two once-neighboring countries and discussed the methods to enhance military ties,” Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said.

India, which has been one of the main buyers of Iranian oil, had to halt imports of crude and petroleum products in the wake of the US sanctions. Washington had stepped up economic pressure against Iran in 2018 and had asked India to stop oil imports from Tehran..