NEW DELHI: Foreign minister S. Jaishankar will stop over in Tehran on Tuesday en route to Moscow to attend the SCO foreign ministers‘ meeting.
He would be the second Cabinet minister after defence minister Rajnath Singh who also stopped over on his return trip from Moscow. While officials said the stop was a “technical halt” mainly for refuelling, Jaishankar will meet his counterpart Javad Zarif, incidentally the first meeting since the pandemic hit.
The Moscow meeting will also be the first time the foreign minister will be stepping out of the country since the pandemic. On Monday, Jaishankar described the situation on the LAC as “very serious”, and that “deep conversations at the political level” were needed.
While the focus of the upcoming visit will be on the meeting between Jaishankar and Wang Yi and the prospect of a resolution of the crisis in eastern Ladakh, the meeting, albeit short, with Zarif will be equally important.
India is clearly reaching out to Iran in the context of a couple of developments, the most important of which is the prospect of the Taliban regaining their dominant position in Afghanistan and what that would mean for regional security and international terrorism. As the US pushes the intra-Afghan dialogue in Qatar between the Taliban and Afghan government, both India and Iran will face the prospect of radical extremists back in the saddle in Kabul, supported by Pakistan.
Iran has engaged with the Taliban in the past, with the common purpose of driving the Americans out. With that having become reality, the sectarian divide is likely to come to the fore. India anyway expects to be a target. India is exploring whether there can be common ground with Tehran, though nobody is talking of reviving the 1990s northern alliance.