Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Discusses Bilateral Ties, Regional Security With Iranian Counterpart
Rajnath Singh speaks during a news conference in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Discusses Bilateral Ties, Regional Security With Iranian Counterpart

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said he had a "very fruitful" meeting with his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Amir Hatami and discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation and regional security issues, including Afghanistan.

Singh arrived in Tehran from Moscow on Saturday after concluding his three-day visit to Russia where he attended a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation defence ministers. He also held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Russia, China and the Central Asian countries.

"Both the Defence Ministers discussed ways to take forward bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan," Singh's office said in a tweet.

The meeting between the two ministers took place in a "cordial and warm atmosphere," it said, adding the leaders emphasised upon the age-old cultural, linguistic and civilisational ties between India and Iran.

Singh's visit to Iran is considered to be significant as it came a day after he voiced India's deep concern about the situation in the Persian Gulf and called upon the countries in the region to resolve their differences through dialogue based on mutual respect.

A series of incidents in the Persian Gulf involving Iran, the U.S. and the U.A.E. in recent weeks have flared up tension in the region.

"We are deeply concerned about the situation in the Persian Gulf," Singh said in his address at the combined meeting of defence ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Commonwealth of Independent States member states. "We call upon countries in the region—all of which are dear and friendly to India—to resolve differences by dialogue based on mutual respect, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of each other."

Last month, Iranian navy briefly seized control of a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in what the U.S. said were international waters near the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman to the south and the Arabian Sea beyond.

Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the US, which has already imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme, tries to strangle its economy.

India-Iran commercial ties were traditionally dominated by Indian import of Iranian crude oil. In 2018-19 India imported $12.11 billion worth of crude oil from Iran.

However, following the end of the Significant Reduction Exemption period on May 2, 2019, India has suspended importing crude from Iran, according to the Indian Embassy in Tehran.

The U.S. had asked countries, including India, to cut oil imports from Iran down to "zero" by Nov. 6, 2019 or face sanctions.

The bilateral trade during 2019-20 was $4.77 billion, a decrease of 71.99% compared to the trade of $17.03 billion in 2018-19. What is significant is that Indian exports to Iran between 2011-12 and 2019-20 have grown by 45.60%, according to the website of the mission.

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