Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are seen waving to the media while they pose for a family photo during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan  (Photo: Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are seen waving to the media while they pose for a family photo during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (Photo: Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Modi’s bilateral meeting with Hassan Rouhani in Bishkek called off

  • Scheduling issues are cited as the reason
  • The United States has recently announced that no fresh sanction waivers will be issued to existing importers of Iranian oil, including India

New Delhi: A bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iran President Hassan Rouhani on the margins of a regional summit in Bishkek on Friday got cancelled due to scheduling issues, news agency ANI reported.

The meeting between Modi and Rouhani had been confirmed late Thursday and had been put out in the Prime Minister’s schedule for Friday. But it was cancelled after the official banquet was delayed, ANI said. The two leaders are in Kyrgyzstan for the two-day regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet ending later Friday.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Iran President Hassan Rouhani in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, cancelled due to scheduling issues. The official banquet got delayed, which disrupted the schedule of all the leaders," the news agency said in a Twitter post.

The meeting was expected to be about whether India would buy oil from Iran after a US waiver from sanctions for a six-month period for India and seven other countries expired last month. The United States had also recently announced that no fresh sanction waivers will be issued to existing importers of Iranian oil, including India. Also, US walked out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and imposed biting sanctions aimed at Iran oil and financial sectors. India till recently was one of the major buyers of Iranian oil but with the US sanctions -- aimed at bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table – kicking in, New Delhi has stopped buying oil from Iran after 2 May.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif had visited India in May, when the then Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had said her government will take a decision on buying oil from Iran after the conclusion of Lok Sabha polls. The election results announced on 23 May saw the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party ride to power for a second term with a mandate stronger than ever before.

“With Pres. @HassanRouhani at #SCO in Kyrgyzstan. Important multilateral dialogue + fruitful bilateral talks incl. w/ President Xi & President Putin," Zarif said in a Twitter post from Bishkek. US officials have meanwhile said India and seven other countries granted special exemptions to buy oil from Iran in November would not be given an extension and New Delhi will have to stop its fuel purchases from there and look for supplies from alternative sources.

The development comes a day after US secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Iran for an early morning assault on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which ended a Japanese mediation effort and raised fear over the safety of vessels passing through the key oil artery to the west, a news report in the Guardian newspaper said.

Pompeo offered no evidence for his accusations but said Iran was also responsible for a wave of attacks on tankers last month, though official investigations into those attacks failed to determine who was responsible, the Guardian news report said.

Tehran has denied all responsibility of the attacks, with its foreign minister Zarif suggesting that others could be trying to provoke a conflict between Iran and the US. The incident took place on a day Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, bluntly rejected the proposal of a resumption of US-Iranian talks, suggested by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while on a visit to Tehran.

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