Saudi, Iranian Foreign Ministers to visit India

Engagements over Afghan situation

A week after hosting intelligence and security chiefs of U.S. and Russia, New Delhi is preparing for visits by the Saudi and Iranian Foreign Ministers, officials confirmed, as part of a series of engagements aimed at “broad-

basing” discussions on Afghanistan with partner countries.

According to sources, newly appointed Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian was due to travel to Delhi on Monday, but his visit has been “postponed” due to scheduling issues and the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where he is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, with a visit to India at an “early date” in the future .

Meanwhile Saudi Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is expected in New Delhi this weekend, for his first visit to India as Foreign Minister.

While both engagements are expected to focus on bilateral issues, the developments in Afghanistan will be a key component, as they have been in bilateral conversations with partners in Europe and Australia in the past few weeks.

Officials said the outreach by the rival countries in West Asia indicates that all partner countries want to speak to India and vice versa. While the new Iranian government has been keen to send its minister to discuss taking the relationship ahead, particularly on connectivity projects, the Saudi government and the UAE have “much common ground” with the Modi government on both bilateral and regional issues.

Unlike in the previous Taliban regime in 1996, this time around Saudi Arabia and UAE have not recognised or kept embassies open in Kabul after the Taliban takeover, while Iran has maintained its embassy in Kabul and has maintained close contacts with the Taliban.

Speaking to the Iranian Foreign Minister over the telephone last week, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had spoken about the situation in Afghanistan and their shared position on the need for an inclusive and representative government in Kabul, a message aimed at the Taliban that announced an interim cabinet including many designated terrorists. Mr. Jaishankar also thanked Iran’s facilitation of India’s evacuation flights from Afghanistan that had needed to overfly Iran and bypass Pakistan.

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