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Business News/ News / India/  Jaishankar makes a technical halt in Tehran
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Jaishankar makes a technical halt in Tehran

Though its deemed a ‘refuelling halt’, the stop over comes at a time when uncertainties vis-a-vis Afghanistan are mounting

Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar. (HT)Premium
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar. (HT)

Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar made a technical halt in Tehran on his way to Russia on a three day visit, officials in New Delhi said on Wednesday.

Though its deemed a “refuelling halt," the stop over comes at a time when uncertainties vis a vis Afghanistan are mounting – ie with the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces engaged in fighting as the US troops look to complete their pull out after a two decade long stay in the country.

“Thank President-elect Ebrahim Raisi for his gracious welcome. Handed over a personal message from PM @narendramodi. Appreciate his warm sentiments for India. Deeply value his strong commitment to strengthen our bilateral ties and expand cooperation on regional and global issues," the minister said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

The halt comes at a time when India is drawing up contingency plans to evacuate its nationals from Afghanistan should the security situation deteriorate further. India has an embassy in Kabul and two consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan. Two other consulates in Herat and Jalalabad were closed in April 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic and given the plans by the US to vacate its troops from the country, New Delhi has not re-opened the two.

According to two people familiar with the matter, there are some Indians working on development projects in Afghanistan. The exact number of Indians in Afghanistan and their locations have not been disclosed by the Indian government for security reasons.

India, Iran and Russia were the main backers of an anti-Taliban alliance when the hardline Sunni group were controlling Kabul between 1996-2001. After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Iran cooperated fully with the US and was instrumental in the post-Taliban formation of the Afghan government. Tehran is said to have mediated between the irreconcilable Afghan warlords and brought them to the reconstruction conference in Bonn in 2001.

In recent times however, Iran has moderated its views on the Taliban given Tehran’s hostile equations with the US, say analysts.

During his stop, Jaishankar also met Iran foreign minister Javad Zarif. Details of the talks could not be immediately ascertained.

According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, in September 2020 too enroute to Moscow, Jaishankar had halted in Iran for a short visit and met with officials of the Islamic Republic.

“The Indian official's visit to Iran comes as an intra-Afghan talks meeting attended by representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban high political delegation hosted by Iran was started on Wednesday," the Mehr News Agency said.

According to a Twitter post by the Taliban’s spokesman for the international media, Suhail Shaheen, “A high-ranking delegation of the Islamic Emirate led by Sher Mohammad A. Stanekzai, now on a visit to the neighboring country of Iran to exchange views with relevant authorities of the Islamic Republic on a couple of issues of mutual interests, will also have a sitting…for brainstorming with some Afghan personalities today. They will touch on the current situation of the country and exchange views on peaceful solution of the issue through talks."

India is also said in be in talks with the Taliban though New Delhi has not officially confirmed it. Last week India had denied that a meeting between Jaishankar and senior Taliban members had taken place after a Twitter post said such a meeting had happened.

The situation in Afghanistan will be one of the key items on the agenda when Jaishankar lands in Moscow. Russia too has been the venue of talks between Afghan representatives and the Taliban in recent times with Moscow too opening a channel of communication with the Sunni group.

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Published: 07 Jul 2021, 07:56 PM IST
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