Iranian defense minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami will be visiting India to participate in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) defense ministers’ meet in February. It would be the first stand-alone visit by an Iranian defense minister since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to reports.
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The 1979 Islamic Revolution had witnessed the ouster of the Iranian king, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the installation of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic.
The IOR defense ministers’ conclave will take place at the AeroIndia show in Bengaluru on February 4. India has invited 28 states of the IOR grouping. The Maldives, Comoros, and Madagascar are also likely to take part. Some of the countries may participate virtually owing to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Reports suggest Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh has invited Hatami, whom he had met in Tehran in September 2020. Within the span of two days of Rajanth’s visit, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had also visited Tehran, while on his way to Moscow, to meet his counterpart Javad Zarif.
The two ministers had reiterated strengthening bilateral cooperation and reviewed regional developments. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh had said: “During the talks, the two sides emphasized on their will to further expand the bilateral ties in all aspects.”
The experts had pointed out that visits held significance due to the warming of ties between China and Iran. A leaked document had revealed two countries were set to sign an agreement for a 25-year strategic partnership in trade, politics, and security, Foreign Policy reported last year.
China’s influence in Iran could jeopardize India’s interests as it has invested heavily in the Chabahar port.
It is also vital for Iran to maintain ties with India due to the growing bonhomie between New Delhi and Washington. The visit assumes significance as all eyes are set on the Biden administration with regard to the sanctions.
It is pertinent to note that the US has given utmost importance to its Indo-Pacific strategy with an eye on China, and India has been termed an important part of the strategy.
The first-of-its-kind IOR defense ministers’ conclave assumes significance in view of the growing Chinese influence in the region.
From Canberra, Paris, Tokyo, to Washington — major military powers continue to support and promote a stronger Indian role in the Indo-Pacific.
“Due to the geographic proximity of the island states—both the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and to a greater extent Mauritius and Seychelles—to India, their foreign policy choices will have a direct impact on New Delhi’s security environment,” a Carnegie paper says.
India has played an active role throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in the IOR with the supply of medicines and vaccines to the island nations and other countries in the region.
With the rising Chinese threat in the region and countries aware of Beijing’s malicious debt-trap strategy, India may emerge as a reliable defense partner within the IOR countries.