India, Iran inching closer on Afghanistan

August 2nd, 2010 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) Against the backdrop of leaked US military documents showing Pakistan’s ISI’s support for the Taliban, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi comes to India on a three-day visit starting Wednesday that will focus on coordinated efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
This is the second ministerial visit from Iran to India in less than a month and follows the July 9 joint commission meeting at which Tehran had relented to expedite India-aided Chabahar port that could deepen India’s outreach in both Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Fathollahi will hold talks with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on a wide range of bilateral issues, including energy and economic ties. He is to call on External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

The worrying situation in Afghanistan in the wake of Pakistan’s accelerated efforts to broker a deal between the Hamid Karzai regime and Islamabad-friendly Taliban leaders will figure in the discussions, well-placed sources said.

Rao is currently in Russia for foreign office consultations and the Afghan situation also figured prominently in the discussions.

India and Iran have been inching closer in their assessment of the Afghan situation and see a strategic advantage in coordinating efforts against the hardline Taliban.

The two countries had backed the Northern Alliance in days leading to the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

During the discussions between Krishna and Iran’s minister of economic affairs Syed Shamsheddin Hosseini in New Delhi last month, the two sides had decided to hold ’structured and regular consultations’ on closer cooperation in Afghanistan. The Iranian side had assured India of accelerating the pace of work at Chabahhar port that will provide Indian goods an alternative access route to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.

The visit of Fathollahi comes against a fresh US warning to Iran to curb its nuclear programme that is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

India has always advocated diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and stressed that it should be resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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