India to host Iran’s minister though US denied him visa

India to host Iran’s minister though US denied him visa

Zarif is expected to visit New Delhi to attend the Raisina Dialogue from January 14 to 16

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif looks on during a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, Russia December 30, 2019. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo)

An international conference in New Delhi next week may turn into the first opportunity for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to directly address the world community on a foreign land following tension between Tehran and Washington D.C. escalated recently.

Zarif is expected to visit New Delhi to attend the Raisina Dialogue from January 14 to 16. He is expected to articulate Tehran’s view on the recent escalation of tension between US and Iran while delivering a speech at the 2020 edition of the flagship annual conference on geopolitics held by Government of India in association with Observer Research Foundation – a think-tank based in New Delhi.

The tension between Tehran and Washington D.C. escalated after a US drone attack near the airport in Baghdad on January 3 killed Iran’s top military leader Major General Qasem Soleimani. Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) retaliated early on Wednesday, firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles targeting the US airbase at Ain al-Assad in Anbar province in western Iraq.

Zarif was expected to visit New York to attend a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday. But President Donald Trump’s administration refused to grant him a visa, thus denying him entry to the US. Tehran alleged that the US decision to deny a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister was a violation of the 1947 Headquarters Agreement that required Washington D.C. to let foreign leaders, dignitaries, diplomats and other officials visit New York to take part in the meetings and other events held at the UN premises in New York.

The meeting of the UN Security Council in New York would have been the first opportunity for Iranian Foreign Minister to formally put forward Tehran’s view on US-Iran tension before the world. But since the US rejected his plea for visa, the world would keenly wait for his address at Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi next week to learn what Iran was thinking about the evolving situation in the Persian Gulf after the killing of Gen. Soleimani, of course, if he does not plan any visit to any other foreign country before travelling to India.

“We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif, however, posted on Twitter on Wednesday – soon after Iran carried out the missile attack on US airbase in Iraq.

Zarif is expected to hold a meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar apart from speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, sources in New Delhi told the DH. He may use the opportunity to have a bilateral meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will also address the conference.

Jaishankar on January 6 spoke to both Zarif and American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, over the phone and underlined India’s stakes in the Persian Gulf and its concerns over escalating US-Iran tension.

India already had to stop importing crude oil from Iran after the US re-imposed sanctions on the West Asian republic. New Delhi is now worried as tankers carrying oil from Iraq and Saudi Arabia to India pass through Strait of Hormuz, which might turn into a conflict zone in case of further escalation in US-Iran tension. New Delhi is also worried about the fate, safety and security of 85 lakh Indian ex-pats in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other nations, which are members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The US already made attempts to drag India into its conflict with Iran. Trump on January 4 said that slain General Soleimani of Iran had played a key role in organizing a series of terror attacks, including one in New Delhi. Trump did not elaborate, but he was apparently referring to a 2012 attack on a diplomat of the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi.

“@DrSJaishankar and I spoke just now regarding Iran’s continued threats and provocations. The Trump administration won’t hesitate to act to keep American lives, and those of our friends and allies, safe,” Pompeo posted on Twitter after speaking to Jaishankar over the phone on January 6.

Trump, himself, spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 7 and discussed the “regional security matters”, according to a statement released by the White House.

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