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12 Jan, 2024 15:04

Indian foreign minister heads to Iran to discuss Red Sea crisis

New Delhi and Tehran share common goal of “mitigating global concerns” about the Middle East as conflict there escalates
Indian foreign minister heads to Iran to discuss Red Sea crisis

Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is planning to visit Iran in the coming days to discuss the ongoing war in Gaza as well as the situation in the Red Sea, where Yemen-based Houthi rebels continue to target merchant ships, The Hindustan Times reported on Friday.

During a two-day visit, the diplomat plans to engage with Iranian leadership in “mitigating global concerns” in the Middle East region, the report continued. Jaishankar will meet his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahain and may also call on Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for “candid” talks on ongoing crises.

India has traditionally supported a two-state solution to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. At the same time, it has unequivocally condemned Hamas’ initial attack on October 7 last, which left over 1,200 Israelis dead, as an act of “terrorism.” After initially abstaining from anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, New Delhi last month voted in favor of a resolution put before the General Assembly (UNGA) calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave.

The situation in the Middle East region was discussed by the countries’ leaderships in November, when Raisi met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit. A readout released by the prime minister’s office saw the two leaders emphasize a need to prevent escalation, to ensure humanitarian aid, and for an “early restoration of peace and stability” in the region.

Jaishankar’s visit to Iran takes place against the background of the US-UK airstrikes on Houthi militias in Yemen in the early hours of Friday, a response to that group having targeted the merchant ships. The attacks were launched without authorization from the UN Security Council.

The visit also follows a phone conservation between Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday during which the situation in the Red Sea was discussed, according to the foreign ministry.

Earlier this month, New Delhi scaled up its military presence in the Arabian Sea to deter attacks by Houthi rebels on vessels that use the vital Red Sea and Gulf of Aden shipping lanes.

In one such attack, MV Chem Pluto, a Japan-owned and Liberia-flagged merchant ship carrying several Indian crew was struck by a drone 400 kilometers off India’s west coast. The Pentagon blamed Iran for the attack, while Tehran immediately dismissed the allegations as “completely rejected and worthless.”

Tehran, which has repeatedly called out Israel over human-rights violations during its siege of Gaza, is believed to be backing several groups in the region, including the Houthis, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iraqi Kaitab Hezbollah. The Houthi militia launched its attack on the vital shipping routes passing through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden “in solidarity” with Gaza amid fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Jaishankar will also discuss the North-South Transport Corridor that passes through the port of Chabahar in Iran. This route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia, using sea, rail, and road.

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