Jaishankar set to make stopover in Iran en route to Russia for meeting of SCO foreign ministers
External affairs minister S Jaishankar will make a stopover in Tehran to meet his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on Tuesday afternoon on his way to Russia for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), people familiar with developments said on Monday.
Jaishankar will be the second senior Indian minister to visit Iran in less than a week, with defence minister Rajnath Singh having made a stopover in Tehran on Sunday for talks with his Iranian counterpart Brig Gen Amir Hatami that focused on bilateral cooperation and regional security issues.
The two foreign ministers are expected to meet on Tuesday afternoon to review bilateral ties and the regional situation, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity. There was no official word on the stopover in Tehran from the external affairs ministry.
The back-to-back visits to Tehran by the Indian cabinet ministers come close on the heels of reports that China and Iran are close to an agreement for a 25-year strategic partnership in trade, politics and security. They also come at a time when Indian is attempting to work more closely with Iran to increase the economic viability of the strategic Chabahar port.
The evolving situation in Afghanistan, where an intra-Afghan dialogue is set to get underway, is also expected to figure in the talks between Jaishankar and Zarif.
Jaishankar last visited Iran in December 2019 and had spoken to Zarif in April. This will be his first visit abroad since foreign travel by ministers was curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides participating in the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Moscow on September 10, Jaishankar is expected to hold bilateral meetings with some counterparts.
However, most of the focus will be on his expected meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi. Jaishankar told an online event on Monday that his position for this meeting will be built around certain principles, including how peace and tranquillity on the border with China over the past 30 years has allowed the rest of the bilateral relationship to progress.
He also said the standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) cannot be delinked from the overall bilateral relationship.