Middle East, Asia - Pacific

Iranian foreign minister’s India visit overshadowed by row over anti-Islam remarks

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's visit comes days after insulting remarks by BJP spokespersons against Prophet Muhammad

Syed Zafar Mehdi  | 09.06.2022 - Update : 09.06.2022
Iranian foreign minister’s India visit overshadowed by row over anti-Islam remarks Credit: https://twitter.com/narendramodi


Iran's foreign minister during his maiden state visit to India on Wednesday held wide-ranging talks with senior Indian officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. 

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian's visit came as New Delhi is facing a diplomatic storm over Islamophobic remarks made by spokespersons for India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Iran was one of the Muslim-majority countries that summoned Indian envoys to lodge an official protest over the matter.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Iran's top diplomat said he was "pleased" to "advance the bilateral strategic dialogue," adding the two sides agreed "on the need to respect divine religions, Islamic sanctities, and to avoid divisive statements."

According to a statement issued by Iran's Foreign Ministry, Amir-Abdollahian and his Indian counterpart Jaishankar discussed a wide range of strategic issues and the potential for expanding trade and economic cooperation between the two sides.

The two officials emphasized the need to "prepare a roadmap to advance comprehensive strategic relations" between the two countries.

They also discussed "closer regional cooperation" with a focus on peace and stability in Afghanistan and the need to help the crisis-stricken country overcome an economic quagmire, the statement noted.

The development of the strategic Chabahar Port in southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province, transportation, and corridors also figured in their discussions.

Amir-Abdollahian also met with Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday. In the meeting, both enumerated various areas of cooperation between the two countries.

In a tweet later, Modi termed the talks "useful on the further development of centuries-old civilizational links between India and Iran."

Amir-Abdollahian's first meeting of the day was with Ajit Kumar Doval, India's national security adviser, during which both officials stressed developing ties in various areas.

Iran, Amir-Abdollahian said, has no barriers to expanding its relations with India, while drawing Doval's attention to the sensitivity of Muslims regarding their religious figures.

Doval, for his part, expressed regret over the recent controversy involving the senior BJP spokespersons and said the wrongdoers shall be dealt with strictly.

Amir-Abdollahian became the first high-ranking foreign official to visit New Delhi since the controversy erupted last week, which came as a big embarrassment to the Modi-led government in New Delhi.

While bilateral and regional issues figured prominently in discussions between the two sides, Amir-Abdollahian's visit was overshadowed by the controversy over the anti-Islam remarks.

Upon his arrival at New Delhi Airport on Wednesday, Iran's foreign minister said he expected to hear Indian leaders speaking about the peaceful coexistence of all religions and sects while referring to the derogatory remarks about Islam and Prophet Mohammad.

On the sidelines of his first official visit to New Delhi since assuming office late last year, Amir-Abdollahian also met with a group of senior clerics from the Shia and Sunni communities, in which he stressed the need to defeat conspiracies and threats through unity and coexistence, the Foreign Ministry’s statement noted.

He said the recent controversy was "not worthy of India," which has been a "land of love and tolerance.”

Several Middle Eastern countries have condemned India over the controversy, which the BJP government has blamed on "fringe elements," distancing itself from the spokespersons.

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