Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will hold extensive talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here tomorrow during which he is expected to seek India’s support for Iran’s nuclear deal with six world powers in the wake of Washington’s withdrawal from it. Zarif’s day-long visit here is part of Tehran’s efforts to reach out to major world powers after the US pulled out from the landmark nuclear deal of 2015 under which Tehran had agreed to stop its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
The issue is expected to be discussed extensively in the talks between Swaraj and Zarif, officials said. The Chabahar port project is also likely to figure in the meeting. Iran is India’s third largest oil supplier and there were apprehensions about possible impact of the US decision on India’s oil import.
However, the officials said the US decision to reinstate financial sanctions on Iran would not impact India’s oil imports as long as European countries did not follow suit. The Iranian Foreign Minister visited China, Russia and some European countries in the last three weeks after President Donald Trump announced Washington’s withdrawal from the deal which was signed by the Obama administration.
The issue is understood to have figured during an “informal summit” between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian city of Sochi last week. China, Russia and several European nations have been trying to salvage the deal. Iran had struck the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) with the US, the UK, Russia, China, France and Germany after years of negotiations.
In its reaction to Trump’s decision, India had said all the parties concerned should engage constructively to resolve the issue peacefully and that Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy must be ensured. The US President’s decision to abandon the agreement has shocked the world, with America’s closest allies such as France, Germany and the UK expressing concern over it.
Zarif is scheduled to return tomorrow night. Indo-Iran ties have been on a upswing in the last three years. Prime Minister Modi visited Tehran in May 2016 with an aim to craft a strategic relationship with Iran and expand India’s ties with West Asia. During the visit, India and Iran signed nearly a dozen pacts, centrepiece of which was an agreement on development of Chabahar port. Later, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral pact providing for transport of goods among the three countries through the port.
In February, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India during which both sides agreed to further expand their cooperation in a number of key sectors During Rouhani’s visit, both sides signed nine agreements including one on handing over Chabahar port’s operation to India for 18 months.
India and Iran have robust economic and commercial ties covering many sectors though it has traditionally been dominated by the import of Iranian crude oil by India. According to the External Affairs Ministry, India-Iran bilateral trade during the 2016-17 fiscal was USD 12.89 billion. India imported USD 10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, and exported commodities worth USD 2.4 billion.