Raisi pledges support to India on Afghanistan issue

Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi pledges support to India's role in ensuring security in Afghanistan

Jaishankar called on Raisi a day after the conservative cleric, who was the Chief Justice of Iran, took oath as the new President of the Islamic Republic

External Affairs Minister of India Dr. S. Jaishankar meets newly sworn-in President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Credit: PTI Photo

Iran will support India if it seeks to play a more prominent role in securing Afghanistan, the new President of the Persian Gulf nation, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, indicated when External Affairs Minister called on him in Tehran on Friday.

“Iran and India can play a constructive and useful role in ensuring security in the region, especially Afghanistan, and Tehran welcomes the New Delhi’s role in establishment of security in Afghanistan,” a press release issued by the Iranian Government quoted Raisi telling Jaishankar during a meeting, when they exchanged views on the resurgence of the Taliban.

Jaishankar called on Raisi on Friday, a day after the conservative cleric, who was the Chief Justice of Iran till July 1, took oath as the new President of the Islamic Republic in West Asia.

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This was the second meeting between the External Affairs Minister and the new President of Iran.

He had earlier called on Raisi on July 7 – a couple of weeks after the conservative cleric, who was the Chief Justice of Iran till July 1, had won the presidential elections in the West Asian nation.

“A warm meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi after his assumption of office. Conveyed the personal greetings of PM @narendramodi. His commitment to strengthening our bilateral relationship was manifest. So too was the convergence in our regional interests,” Jaishankar posted on Twitter after meeting Raisi on Friday.

Raisi’s comment during his meeting with Jaishankar is signifiant as India and Iran had joined Russia in supporting the Northern Alliance, which had fought a war against the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

As the Taliban of late stepped up its military offensives and once again occupied several districts across Afghanistan taking advantage of the withdrawal of troops by the Unites States and its NATO allies, India has been discussing the situation with Iran and Russia.

New Delhi has been worried over the strategic advantage Pakistan and its ‘iron brother’ China would gain over India in the region if the Taliban could return to power in Afghanistan.

The governments of Russia and Iran recently hosted the delegations of the Taliban in Moscow and Tehran. New Delhi too reached out to a section of the Sunni Muslim militants, albeit informally. India also made it clear that if the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan through violence without going through a political process, it would lack legitimacy.

“The fate of Afghanistan must be decided by the Afghans themselves, and we believe that if the Americans do not sabotage the situation, this issue will be resolved quickly,” Raisi told Jaishankar during the meeting on Friday. New Delhi also maintains that the peace-process between the Taliban and the government and civil society in Afghanistan should be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.

The Taliban’s military offensive in Afghanistan was high on the agenda, when Jaishankar hosted the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in New Delhi on July 28.

India over the past few years contributed over $ 3 billion to support reconstruction of infrastructure in Afghanistan. It, however, refrained from sending troops to Afghanistan and kept its military support to the conflict-hit country limited to providing training to officials and soldiers of Afghan National Army and the supply of non-lethal defence hardware. It was in December 2015 that India started providing helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.