India to host Iranian, Saudi FMs

New Delhi is preparing for visits by the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers, Indian officials confirmed, as part of a series of engagements aimed at discussions on Afghanistan with partner countries as well as Tehran-Riyadh ties.

According to sources, newly appointed Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein 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 Subrahmanyam 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 stated 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 Narendra Modi government on both bilateral and regional issues.

Unlike in the previous Taliban regime in 1996, this time around Saudi Arabia and the 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 FM over the telephone last week, 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. Jaishankar also thanked Iran’s facilitation of India’s evacuation flights from Afghanistan that had needed to overfly Iran and bypass Pakistan.

Source: The Hindu

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