Defence Ministers of India and Iran discussed ways to take forward bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan during their meeting in Tehran, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday. In a departure from protocol for defence meetings, the Iranian side also raised the issue of recent reports citing the safety of minorities in India, it has been learnt.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a bilateral meeting with Iran’s Minister of Defence and armed forces logistics Brigadier General Amir Hatami at the latter’s request on September 5. Mr. Singh was on a transit halt in Tehran en route from Moscow to New Delhi where he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers meeting. Iran is an Observer at the SCO. “Both the leaders emphasised upon the age-old cultural, linguistic and civilisational ties between India and Iran,” the Ministry said.
Iran is a 95% majority Shia country, and Iranian officials raised the issue of safety of minorities as Mr. Singh represents Lucknow, which has a sizeable Shia population as well, said sources privy to the meeting.
According to the sources, Mr. Singh reassured the Iranian Defence Minister that all minorities in India were secure. He also pointed out that India was one of the rare countries in the world where all sects of Islam were present, and that all sects and religions lived together in the country’s pluralistic culture, the sources said.