Indian officials can ‘soon’ meet detained crew members: Iran 

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar speaks to both Iran and Israeli Foreign Ministers, calls for restraint and diplomacy, as New Delhi pitches neutral position on strikes

April 15, 2024 09:31 am | Updated 10:29 pm IST - NEW DELHI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that he had taken up the release of the Indian crew members during his conversation and also discussed the strikes. 

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that he had taken up the release of the Indian crew members during his conversation and also discussed the strikes.  | Photo Credit: AP

Iran said that it would “soon” allow Indian officials to meet with the 17 Indian crew members detained after its forces seized an Israel-linked ship MSC Aries after the issue was raised by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who spoke to foreign ministers of both Iran and Israel late on Sunday night. 

“We have been telling both of them [Israel and Iran] that please do not allow [the situation] to escalate,” Mr. Jaishankar told media persons during a visit to Bengaluru on Monday.

Follow LIVE updates from Iran-Israel tensions on April 15, 2024

 “This is a very crucial region for global economy. Almost 90 lakh Indian citizens are living in [the Gulf region]. A large part of our shipping passes through this part and our oil comes from this part of the world. This is enormously sensitive region and we are very concerned when there is this kind of escalation in hostilities,” he added. 

In a readout of the conversation between Mr. Jaishankar and Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian released on Monday, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said they had discussed Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel in what it called a response to Israel’s attack on the Iranian embassy on April 1 in which seven Iranian diplomats and commanders died, as well as the situation in Gaza, and Red Sea. 

‘Shared India’s concern’

Mr. Jaishankar said he had also shared India’s “concern at the developments”, indicating Iran’s drone and missile attacks, with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz. 

“Shared our concern at the developments yesterday. Discussed the larger regional situation. Agreed to stay in touch,” Mr. Jaishankar posted on social media platform X. 

Mr. Jaishankar’s post mirrored the statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Sunday that did not directly refer to Iran’s strikes on Israel, suggesting a more neutral approach by New Delhi given India’s strong strategic ties with both countries 

In an interview to news agency PTI, Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon said Israel expects from India, as a friend, to be “very strong in international community in making sure that Iran stops its destabilisation of West Asia.”

However, the MEA statement was received with some disappointment in Israel. 

“As a supporter of Indian foreign policy, I find the weak, balanced MEA statement disappointing. I expected India to publicly condemn the attack, as did so many other friends [and] partners of Israel around the world,” wrote former Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon.

Mr. Carmon was referring to the statements by the U.S., its allies and western countries strongly condemning the strikes and affirming support for Israel, in contrast to the statement from New Delhi. On Sunday, the Iranian MFA had summoned envoys of U.K., Germany and France to protest their statements condemning the Iranian actions. In a briefing to diplomatic envoys, Mr. Abdollahaian also said that Iran had warned the United States against any “misadventure” in support of Israel. 

According to the Iranian MFA statement on the call with Mr. Jaishankar, Mr. Abdollahian had also called for India’s “continued role through international institutions, including the UN, to stop the war in Gaza, which is the root of current crises in the region,” and to stop Israeli “aggression” there.

It said that Mr. Jaishankar had called for a reduction in tensions, and responsible behaviour from all parties. In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that “at this point, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary, it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression”.

(With inputs from Bengaluru)

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