India Attends Security Meet in Iran, despite US Calls for sanctions, disengagement
In complex geo-politics of terrorism, energy security, Gulf politics and Indo US Iran relations, India prefers autonomy attends key security event hosted by Iran
Just a few days after United States President exclaimed effusive praise for Indian Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi and love for the country, India’s National Security adviser Mr Ajit Doval attended a Regional Security Dialogue in Iran along with his counterparts from Russia, China and Afghanistan.
Mr Trump in remarks reported by diplomats on the sidelines of an event on the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly is reported to have said to India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, “I love India, give my regards to my friend PM Modi.”
India’s attendance at the meet in Iran comes immediately after Mr Trump’s speech in the UN General Assembly where he described Iran as “a corrupt dictatorship, whose leaders sew chaos, death and disruption.”
Trump added: ” They do not respect their neighbors, borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, they plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond. The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from the treasury, seized valuable portions and looted the religious endowments to line their own pockets and to send their proxies to wage war.”
India seen as a key strategic partner of the United States in the region covering defence and security in particular however choose to virtually ignore these remarks as India’s National Security Adviser Mr Ajit Doval was in Tehran on 26 September to attend the Regional Security Dialogue.
The Ministry of External Affairs in a press release stated, “National Security Advisor (NSA), Shri Ajit Doval, visited Iran on 26 September 2018 to participate in a meeting focussing on the issue of threat posed by terrorism, including Daesh/ISIS, to regional and global peace, security and stability. Other participants included NSAs/Secretaries to the National Security Council/ Deputy Minister of Security from Afghanistan, China, Iran and Russia”.
“NSA articulated India’s abiding commitment to partner in bilateral, regional and global forums for tackling the scourge of terrorism which poses a huge threat to the entire humanity. NSA highlighted the need to not make a distinction between good and bad terrorism; greater cooperation, including through information sharing for disrupting support mechanisms such as training, financing and supply of weapons; need for disrupting cross-border movement of terrorists; and isolating those who support and sponsor terrorism”.
Apart from the threat from the Daesh or the ISIS support for Afghanistan was also a major issue and India reportedly emphasised on the need to assist Afghanistan to target the terrorist groups and, “promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan which was Afghan-led, Afghan owned and Afghan-controlled”.
Mr Doval also held a meeting with his counterpart, Iran’s SNSC Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani who emphasised United States’ “economic terrorism” against Iran targeting the livelihood of the people as per Iranian news agency Mehr News. “Today, along with threats of Takfiri terrorism, we are facing economic terrorism by the U.S. which has targeted the livelihood of (Iranian) people,” Shamkhani said.
Iran has also blamed the United States and Saudi Arabia for supporting groups that carried out attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on 22 September, which killed 29 people.
Mehr News reported that Mr Ajit Doval, underlined “India’s cooperation with Iran, especially in the economic sphere, will continue, and New Delhi is interested in expanding investment in Iran and in expanding its relations in all areas.”
This despite the US sanctions on Iran which deem all countries must cut off economic engagement with Iran including energy imports to Zero by November this year, six months after US President reneged on the Iran nuclear deal on 12 May in Washington.
Interestingly Indian NSA Mr Doval was on a visit to the United States last week where he is reported to have met up with Mr John Bolton his US counterpart. Mr Bolton leads the Trump administration’s hawkish stand on Iran and has threatened Tehran with war.
Though this was a Regional Security Dialogue in West and South West Asia, Pakistan was not represented. The new government under Mr Imran Khan has dissolved the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the functions are to be carried out by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The reasons for absence of Pakistan are not clear, but had it attended it may have faced the flak from India as well as Afghanistan directly and indirectly.
Speaking in the UN General Assembly Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah on 26 September amongst other issues outlined the presence of safe havens across the border in Pakistan.
“We have not been able so far to eliminate the sources such as economic crime and drug smuggling and the issue of safe havens (to terrorists) that play a serious role in the extension of terrorism.” Abdullah said Afghan government continues efforts to “prevent some countries from using terrorism as a political tool for achieving their special goals,” without naming any country. “We have asked from neighboring states especially from Pakistan to cooperate with us in targeting and eliminating terrorist safe havens,” he said. “We are awaiting effective and on-time implementation of Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity.”
With National Security Adviser Mr Ajit Doval known to be extremely close to Prime Minister Modi participating in the Regional Security Dialogue in Tehran, India has send a strong signal of retaining autonomy, supporting alignments which seek to counter terrorism and wish to avoid the perception of being aligned to the US.
The test will however come when faced with a ballooning energy bill and impending general elections, whether India chooses to follow the American dictat on stopping import of Iranian oil to Zero by November?