In her four-day tour to Iran and Russia, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj focused on a gamut of issues, ranging from combating terrorism to enhancing ties for India’s energy security.
In Moscow, she attended the Foreign Ministers meeting of RIC (Russia-India-China). Swaraj also held talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. She had a meeting with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitryi Rogozin.
We take a look at three key takeaways for India from Swaraj’s trip:
Tough stance on ban of JeM chief Masood Azhar: Swaraj did some plain-speaking with China over its blocking of the Indian bid to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned by the UN and warned the global community of “serious consequences” if it continues to adopt “double standards” in dealing with terrorism.
During a bilateral meeting with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Swaraj also asked for a “review” of the Chinese action at the UN.
“I told him (Wang) that if we were to fulfil our intention of fighting terrorism together, then China should review the stand it had taken at the UN 1267 Committee,” Swaraj told a joint press conference with Wang and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) April 18, 2016
It was agreed during the Swaraj-Wang meeting that the two sides would remain in touch on the matter, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
Last month, China had vetoed India’s bid to get Azhar designated as terrorist by the UN Sanctions Committee, maintaining that the case “did not meet the requirements” of the Security Council.
Combating terrorism: In a major move, the RIC trilateral grouping vowed to deepen cooperation in combating terrorism and pitched for setting up of a broad counter-terrorist front with the UN playing a central role.
The bloc decided to work closely in cutting finances to terror networks besides other steps even as they decided to step up engagement in boosting trade and investment among three member countries.
Addressing RIC meet, Swaraj warned the international community of “serious consequences” if it continues to adopt “double standards” in dealing with terrorism.
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) April 18, 2016
“India believes that the foremost challenge to international security continues to be posed by international terrorism. The RIC countries must lead the way in getting the international community together to counter terrorism through joint action, including at the UN,” Swaraj said.
“We must not fail in this regard. If we continue to adopt double standards in dealing with terrorism it will have serious consequences not just for our own countries, but the international community as a whole,” she said.
Energy ties with Iran: In Iran, Swaraj called on President Hassan Rouhani and held talks with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, besides meeting with Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei’s Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati and deliberated on a range of issues.
Resetting ties, India and Iran held extensive talks on stepping up engagement on a range of key areas, particularly to increase Indian investment in oil and gas sectors in the Persian Gulf nation which has opened several lucrative sectors after lifting of sanctions under a landmark nuclear deal.
During the meeting, Rouhani assured Swaraj that his country can be a “reliable partner” for India’s energy needs. The two nations also decided to significantly expand engagements in their overall ties, particularly in oil and gas sectors.
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) April 17, 2016
In a meeting Swaraj and Zarif reviewed entire gamut of bilateral ties and the centerpiece of the deliberations was to give a new momentum to overall ties.
The focus of the talks was to ramp up India’s investment in areas of energy, ports, connectivity in Iran where investors from world’s major economic powers are rushing in to get early footholds after end of economic sanctions.
The size of Iran’s economy is around $400 billion, the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia, and the country is being seen as one of the world’s hottest investment destination as it has opened various critical sectors including oil and gas for joint ventures and foreign capital.
Countries like Japan, China, the US and a number of European nations are scrambling to take advantage of opportunities in the oil-rich nation after the sanctions were lifted in January.
India has been eying deeper energy ties with Iran and has already lined up $20 billion as investment in oil and gas as well as in petrochemical and fertiliser sectors there. India is also keen to increase oil imports from Iran from current 350,000 barrels a day.