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Jaishankar discusses Chabahar, North-South connectivity and Red Sea crisis with Iranian counterpart

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S Jaishankar and Hossein Amirabdollahian

S Jaishankar and Hossein Amirabdollahian

Tehran: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday held wide ranging discussions with Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian here and their discussion focused on the long term framework for India's involvement with the strategically vital Chabahar port and the North-South connectivity project.

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Jaishankar, who is in the Iranian capital as part of the ongoing high-level exchanges between the two sides, also called on Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and conveyed the greetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"Held wide ranging discussions today in Tehran with Iranian FM @Amirabdolahian.

Our bilateral discussion focused on the long term framework for India's involvement with Chabahar port and the INSTC connectivity project," Jaishankar said in a post on X.

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He also spoke about threats to maritime shipping in the region and stressed that it's important that this issue be "speedily addressed", in an apparent reference to targeting of merchant vessels in the Red Sea by Iranian-backed Yemen's Houthi rebels amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The US and the UK have launched air strikes targeting the Houthi positions in Yemen.

India has been closely monitoring the unfolding situation in the Red Sea. The issue figured in a phone conversation between Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday.

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The Indian Navy has already enhanced deployment of its frontline ships and surveillance aircraft for maritime security operations in view of the maritime environment in the critical sea lanes including the North and Central Arabian Sea.

Following the airstrikes targeting the Houthi positions, US President Joe Biden said he will not hesitate to direct further measures. "The response of the international community to these reckless attacks has been united and resolute," he said.

"Other issues on the agenda were the Gaza situation, Afghanistan, Ukraine and BRICS cooperation," Jaishankar said after his meeting with the Iranian foreign minister.

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Later, he called on Iranian President Raisi and apprised him of his "productive discussions" with the Iranian ministers.

"Honoured to call on the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dr Ebrahim Raisi @raisi_com. Conveyed the greetings of PM @narendramodi. Expressed condolences over the Kerman attack. Apprised him of my productive discussions with the Iranian Ministers. Value his guidance for further development of ties," Jaishankar posted on X.

Iran's official IRNA news agency earlier reported that Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian and his Indian counterpart discussed developing bilateral relations. "They also reviewed regional and international developments," it added.

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Earlier on Monday, Jaishankar began his engagements in Iran by meeting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash during which the two sides held a detailed and "productive" discussion on establishing a long-term cooperation framework on the strategically vital Chabahar port.

Jaishankar also exchanged views on the International North-South Transport Corridor with Bazrpash.

"Began my engagements in Tehran by meeting the Minister of Roads and Urban Development @mehrdadbazrpash. Detailed and productive discussion on establishing a long-term cooperation framework with respect to Chabahar port. Also exchanged views on the International North-South Transport Corridor," he said in another post on X.

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Bazrpash and Jaishankar have reached a final agreement to develop Chabahar port in southeastern Iran, the country's state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Proposing the formation of a joint transportation committee to expand cooperation between the two countries, Bazrpash said that the formation of this working committee will enable the activation of transit capacities and the use of the North-South corridor, the report said.

Jaishankar, for his part, expressed India’s readiness for fresh investments in the fields of transportation and transit in Iran and invited Bazrpash to visit India, IRNA reported.

Located in Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the Chabahar port is being developed by India and Iran to boost connectivity and trade ties.

India has been pushing for the Chabahar port project to boost regional trade, especially for its connectivity to Afghanistan.

At a connectivity conference in Tashkent in 2021, Jaishankar projected the Chabahar port as a key regional transit hub, including to Afghanistan.

The Chabahar port is also seen as a key hub for the INSTC project.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode transport project for moving freight among India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

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