India to observe state mourning on May 21 for President Raisi’s death

The death of Mr. Raisi and Mr. Abdollahian has also cast a shadow over the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on Tuesday

Updated - May 20, 2024 10:52 pm IST

Published - May 20, 2024 10:46 pm IST - NEW DELHI

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, on May 20, 2024.

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, on May 20, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

India will observe a day’s ‘state mourning’ on May 21 after the death of Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi in an apparent helicopter-related incident was confirmed by Tehran on Monday. The helicopter carrying President Raisi, Foreign Minister of Iran Amir Abdollahian and other senior officials had gone missing on Sunday when he was returning to Tehran after inaugurating a dam in the East Azerbaijan province. The burnt remains of the helicopter were detected in the early hours of Monday though the circumstances surrounding its last moments are yet to be clarified.

“Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his message which came soon after Iran officially announced the demise of President Raisi and his colleagues.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also expressed condolences to the Iranian people and said, “[I] Recall my many meetings with them, most recently in January 2024.”

As part of the state mourning for President Raisi, the national tricolour will be flown in half mast throughout India on all buildings where the national flag is flown regularly and the Government of India will not hold any official entertainment on Tuesday, an official press release said.

Also read | Who is Iran’s first Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber, appointed acting President after crash?

Bilateral ties

Mr. Jaishankar had flown to Tehran in January when he held talks with Mr. Abdollahian and President Raisi in the backdrop of the increasing number of attacks against ships by the Houthi rebels on the Red Sea. They also discussed India-Iran cooperation regarding the port of Chahbahar during that visit.  India concluded a major agreement on May 13 with Iran for long term 10-year operation of the Chahbahar port.

The death of Mr. Raisi and Mr. Abdollahian has also cast a shadow over the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on Tuesday. Other Foreign Ministers of SCO countries have already arrived in the Kazakh capital, and sources said a decision is still to be made about how to proceed. As elections are underway, India has sent Secretary (Economic Relations) Dammu Ravi, who was due to work with other delegations to prepare the final summit agenda for the SCO summit due to be held in early August.

Earlier this year, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced that all SCO leaders planned to attend the summit in Astana. With the sudden death of President Raisi, his Vice President Mohammad Mokhbar is expected to take over temporarily, as Iran prepares for fresh elections.

Earlier, in April, Eraj Elahi, the Iranian ambassador to India had told the media here that President Raisi was expected to visit later this year to enhance bilateral ties. Both Mr. Raisi and Mr. Abdollahian had interacted with Mr. Modi and Mr. Jaishankar on multiple occasions. Mr. Jaishankar attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Raisi on August 5, 2021, when both India and Iran were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was during President Raisi’s tenure that Iran became a member of the BRICS grouping in Johannesburg on August 24, 2023, along with Saudi Arabia. Iran’s membership in BRICS became operational on January 1, 2024.

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