India and Iran Discuss Their Unused Road To Afghanistan

India, Iran discuss Afghanistan

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: India and Iran have held extensive discussions on the developments in the region including Afghanistan as part of their annual diplomatic consultations.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao headed the Indian delegation, while Mohammad Ali Fathollahi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Oceania led the Iranian side during the two-day dialogue.

Diplomatic sources told The Hindu that substantial discussions were held on “regional issues” including the recent developments regarding Afghanistan and the transit route from Iranian port of Chabahar to Afghanistan, which Iran and India have jointly developed. In the past, both India and Iran have been wary of engaging the so called “moderate Taliban” in Afghanistan. However, last month’s conference in London, in which Iran did not participate, has decided to create a fund in anticipation that resources would be needed to draw a significant number of Taliban into the Afghan mainstream.

Discussions were also held on transit, including further activation of the North-South corridor which has been a joint initiative of India, Iran and Russia.

Sources said Ms. Rao had an “excellent” meeting, which lasted for more than an hour on Tuesday, with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

She also met Iran’s point person on nuclear talks, Saeed Jalili, widely known as a confidant of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Jalili had led the Iranian delegation for talks, held last year in Geneva, in which the Americans had also participated.

He also led the Iranian side to talks held in Autumn in Vienna, where a deal was proposed to swap Iran’s stocks of lightly enriched uranium with atomic fuel rods for use in a Tehran research reactor engaged in producing medical isotopes.