Days after his visit to Washington, External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif for a meeting of the 19th India-Iran joint commission, including talks on the Chabahar port , during a visit that could see him dealing with concerns of Indian expatriates over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act as well.
In a tweet after the meeting on Sunday, Mr. Zarif said they had “excellent discussions on closer bilateral relations and regional and global issues affecting our respective countries,” adding that India-Iran ties are “ancient, historic and unbreakable”.
Mr. Jaishankar said the meeting with Mr. Zarif and the Iranian delegation had been “very productive”. “ [We] reviewed the entire gamut of our cooperation [and] agreed on accelerating our Chabahar project, ” he said in a tweet.
The meeting of the two ministers was the first since last month, when Mr. Zarif had told a group of visiting Indian journalists that he was “disappointed” that India had allowed itself to be “bullied” by the United States and stopped all oil imports from Iran. Speaking in Delhi, Iran’s Ambassador Ali Chegeni had earlier suggested that India’s adherence to U.S. sanctions was also affecting Chabahar port development plans.
In Washington last week, however, a senior U.S. official made it clear that it would continue its “narrow exemption” to India to develop the Chabahar port , recognising its role as “as a lifeline to Afghanistan in terms for India to be able to export humanitarian supplies and potentially helping Afghanistan diversify its export opportunities.”
Subsequently, diplomats from India, Iran and Afghanistan met in Delhi on Friday and discussed several new initiatives for the trilateral project at Chabahar.
Citizenship Act flagged
Meanwhile, the Mehr news agency reported that a “number of Indian businesspersons, professionals, university and seminary students and scholars living in Iran” sought a meeting with Mr. Jaishankar to discuss protests in India.
MEA officials did not respond to a query about whether the groups had been granted a meeting with Mr. Jaishankar, or if the CAA had come up during his talks with the Iranian leadership. Mr. Jaishankar is expected to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani before he leaves Tehran on Monday and travel next to Oman for bilateral talks.
OIC says it is “concerned”
The 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued a statement of “concern” criticising the government on Sunday, over the Citizenship Amendment Act and the Babri Masjid verdict of the Supreme Court. In a statement, the general secretariat of the Jeddah based OIC, which is led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, said it was closely following “recent developments affecting [the] Muslim minority in India.”
“[The OIC] reiterates its call to ensure the safety of the Muslim minority and the protection of Islamic holy places in India,” the statement said, invoking the United Nations charter against discrimination.
“In this regard, any action, contrary to these principles and obligations, may lead to further tensions and may have serious implications on peace and security across the region,” it read. The statement comes close on the heels of criticism from an alternate grouping of some Islamic nations at a “Malaysia summit” last week, that India had fiercely objected to. On Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs had summoned the Charge d’Affaires to protest comments by Malaysian PM Mahathir Muhammad on CAA at the summit, asking Malaysia to refrain from “non-factual” statements on India’s internal matters.