Why is the Indian Foreign Minister going to Iran amid rising tension in the Middle East?

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Why is the Indian Foreign Minister going to Iran amid rising tension in the Middle East?

Amid rising tensions in the Middle East following the US and UK attacks on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, there has been news that India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar will visit Iran.

According to news agency PTI, S Jaishankar will visit Iran on January 15 and meet his Iranian counterpart Hussain Amir Abdullahian.

Middle East
Middle East

His visit will come at a time when the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas threatens to spread to the Middle East.

On the one hand, Israel continually attacks Gaza, ignoring international calls and UN resolutions, while, on the other hand, clashes with Hezbollah continue on the border with Lebanon in the north.

At the same time, the United States and the United Kingdom have launched attacks against Houthi rebels, who attack commercial ships in the Red Sea.

US and British warplanes have attacked more than 60 Houthi rebel positions in Yemen. After this, a spokesman for the Houthi rebels stated: “The attackers will have to suffer the consequences.”

At the same time, Iran was also reported to have captured a US oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman.

All of them are linked to Iran, as it is accused of not only providing financial and military support to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels, but also of forcing them to act according to its instructions.

Chris Lowe, a US diplomat at the UN Security Council, openly blamed Iran for the Houthi rebel attacks.

Blinken and Jaishankar speak    (Middle East)

There is a constant threat in the Middle East that war could escalate at any time. To ensure that the situation does not get out of control, US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken has visited Israel four times since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

Meanwhile, on Thursday he spoke over the phone to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. In the conversation between the two leaders, the situation in the Red Sea and Western Asia was addressed.

S. Jaishankar released his statement on the situation in the Middle East.

Purpose of visit to Iran    (Middle East)
This was followed by the news that S Jaishankar would visit Iran and then attend the 19th Non-Aligned Summit in Uganda.

There are many speculations about what will be the purpose of S. Jaishankar’s visit to Iran and what topics will be discussed.

India and Iran have bilateral diplomatic and trade relations and issues that are natural to discuss. Among them, the North-South Trade Corridor and the Chabahar Port stand out.

But this sudden proposal for a visit by S. Jaishankar is also linked to the talks between him and US Secretary of State Antony Blanken. Experts following the matter say it is also possible that the Indian Foreign Minister travels to Iran with a message from the United States.

Ashwini Mahapatra, a professor at the Center for West Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, says the United States does not want to be involved in a war on another front right now. In that case, he may be trying to pacify the situation through India.

She says: “Of course the United States has attacked the Houthi rebel bases, but the United States does not want a large-scale conflict here.” Her experience in Yemen in 2016 wasn’t that great either, so he himself isn’t directly involved. The United States does not want to be involved in any conflict this year because the presidential elections will be held in the United States.’

Diplomatic measures to reduce tensions    (Middle East)

The Houthi rebels had announced that they would attack ships heading to Israel in support of Hamas. So far, they have attacked several commercial ships in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab with drones and rockets.

So many oil and shipping companies had to change course. Due to the retreat of the Red Sea, transportation costs have increased, which has also affected the prices of goods and oil that pass through it.

Professor Ashwini Mahapatra says the Red Sea situation is affecting both India and the rest of the world. He says almost all countries, including India, agree that the sea routes should be secure and attacks should not be carried out here, so perhaps India will try to send a message to Iran that the United States is not ready to escalate the problem. Since Iran supports the Houthi rebels and Hezbollah, etc., perhaps an attempt should be made to reach a consensus to limit the Houthi rebels’ attacks.

Professor Aftab Kamal Pasha, an expert on Middle East affairs, also believes that efforts will be made to prevent the situation from going out of control during S. Jaishankar’s visit.

He says that whatever is happening in Gaza and the Red Sea or what is expected to happen in Lebanon (the conflict with Hezbollah) is creating tension throughout the region.

Aftab Kamal Pasha says that “Iran’s role in all this is very important. Iran is not only supported by Russia and China, but is also quite powerful. He is in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad is his ally in Syria. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are aggressive, they control them all from a distance, if the situation is tense, it will also affect our interests.’

Experts say the situation in the Middle East is at a level where no country wants it to deteriorate and each has its own reasons.

Professor Aftab Kamal Pasha says that even after so many days, Israel has not made any significant progress in Gaza. Then the United States pressured him not to start a war with Hezbollah. At the same time, the United States and its allies have achieved nothing special in Ukraine. Otherwise, he and his colleagues wanted to do something quickly in the Middle East and Western Asia. But nothing special happened here either.

Professor Ashwini Mahapatra says the United States is being forced to get involved in this. “The Houthis may have limited capabilities, but their attacks are hurting shipping companies,” he says. Meanwhile, Russia and China want the United States to participate in the region’s conflicts, to divert its attention from Ukraine and “not go to Taiwan while the United States is stuck here.”

In such a situation, the United States wants to try to reduce tension through diplomatic means.

“India is in a crisis of its own interests”          (Middle East)

Middle East
Middle East

Whatever the cause of tension in West Asia, it will definitely have an impact on India. On December 3, a Liberian merchant ship named MV Chem Pluto was the target of a drone attack.

The ship arrived at Mangalore and of the 22 crew members, 21 were Indians. Subsequently, the Gabonese tanker MV Sai Baba in the Red Sea was also attacked by drones. Her crew consisted of 25 Indians.

The Indian Navy has said such incidents are occurring in India’s exclusive economic zone.

Professor Ashwini Mohapatra says the entire area is very important and is not far from Mumbai and Gujarat. And furthermore, under current conditions, ships arriving in India have to make long detours.

Furthermore, India’s route to Central Asia and Russia passes only through Iran. Recently, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Russia. A detailed discussion on the International North-South Transport Corridor took place there.

India, Iran and Russia agreed to build the International North-South Corridor in the early 2000s. This is expected to increase trade between India, Iran, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

Chabahar port in Iran is very important for this project. Through this corridor, the port will be connected by rail to Central Asia and Russia. But the future of the entire project was in doubt after the G20 summit in Delhi last year agreed to create a new trade route.

This new trade route was named the India-Europe-Middle East Corridor. Includes India, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Greece.

Professor Aftab Kamal Pasha says the future of the economic corridor, announced during the G20 conference in India, is in danger. Because there is no improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel at the moment. In this situation, Iran was saved, but to a large extent, India seems to be on the side of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, but also wants to maintain relations with Iran, Russia and China. In such a situation, India would like to establish a balance.’

“Amid the ever-changing situation, there is concern in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs that the war may escalate,” he says. If a war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah and spreads to Iraq and then Iran, the consequences will likely be dire. Not only will trade and investment from both Iran and India be affected, but the 9 million Indians living in the Gulf countries will not be spared from its effects.

Will Iran listen to India?              (Middle East)

In this tense and complicated situation, some questions arise whether India can emerge as a good mediator between Iran and Western countries.

On what can be expected from S. Jaya Shankar’s visit in the current situation, Professor Ashwini Mahapatra says, ‘When the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program arose, the European Union, especially Germany and France, played the role of mediator. , the agreement reached was later rejected by former US President Trump. Iran has good relations with China but the United States does not want to talk to it. Iran also has historic relations with India. And furthermore, these days India’s diplomatic status has increased as India has announced the new economic corridor ‘Europe-Middle East Corridor’.

He says Iran knows that India is currently trying to adopt a neutral position. Furthermore, Iran’s internal economic situation does not allow it to escalate further conflicts.

But Professor Aftab Kamal Pasha, an expert on Middle East affairs, believes that relations between India and Iran are no longer the same.

He says that “Iran is very smart diplomatically.” Talking about its historical relationship with India no longer makes sense. The fact is that, like China and Russia, he has come to the conclusion that India should now become an ally of the United States.’

In his open statement to the media, he says that India, which was previously non-aligned, is now running at the behest of the United States.

Will India’s words affect Iran? In response to this question, Aftab Kamal Pasha says, “Iran knows that it has a supposed role in the current situation. In such a situation, if Jaishankar has any message from the United States, only Iran will listen to it.” India cannot become a mediator like Iraq. All we can say is that the United States does not want a regional war.’

Finding solutions in an environment of “mistrust” is difficult

Experts say nothing can be said with certainty about how effective any effort to control the situation in the Middle East will be.

Aftab Kamal Pasha says the difference between US words and actions has become clearer in recent days, in such a situation it will not be easy for Iran to believe in any US offer.

He says the United States says one thing and does another. Joe Biden called on Israel to stop the war but continued with weapons and aid. The United States says it does not want tensions in the region, but attacks the Houthis in Yemen. He tells Israel not to start a war with Hezbollah, but also says that if Hezbollah does not withdraw from the Lebanese border, Israel can do anything to defend itself, Iran knows this double policy of the United States.

Professor Ashwini Mohapatra says Iran feels the conditions are in its favor and would like to make the most of them.

He says that today the opinion of the entire world is against Israel. A genocide case has also been brought against him at the International Court of Justice. So the environment is favorable for Iran to take advantage of. He is supporting organizations like Hezbollah. Through what he calls the axis of resistance, his influence can continue.”

Israel, on the other hand, has consistently said that it will not stop its campaign in Gaza until it completely destroys Hamas. At the same time, Houthi rebels say that until Israel stops attacking Gaza, they will continue attacking ships.

Experts say that since the United States and Iran are not in a position to escalate the conflict nor are either side taking concrete steps to reduce tensions, there are fears that the situation could become precarious. .

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