Samarkand, Uzbekistan: While the restart of oil commerce between New Delhi and Tehran remained stalled, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Friday discussed the Iran Nuclear Agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
India ceased purchasing oil from Iran in May 2019 in an unprecedented action as a result of US-led sanctions put in place by the previous Donald Trump administration. Tehran has been pressuring New Delhi to resume the purchases ever since. Prior to this, India had never adhered to such unilateral sanctions and always skirted them.
“President Raisi briefed the Prime Minister on the status of the JCPOA negotiations … During the meeting the two leaders discussed many important issues pertaining to the bilateral relationship, and expressed their desire for strengthening the relationship further,” said a press release issued by the Ministry of External Affairs.
The press release made no mention of the energy security or crude oil purchases that have been a pillar of India-Iran bilateral relations. However, energy security remains to be a crucial tenet of bilateral relations, according to Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.
In response to a question by ThePrint, the foreign secretary said: “Questions relating to energy security have always been an important element of our discussions, whether it has been in the past that is during the pre-JCPOA days or even sometimes during the successful implementation of the JCPOA”.
“It’s quite natural that if the two leaders are meeting they will take stock what the status of that cooperation has,” Kwatra said at a media briefing in Samarkand post the meeting between Modi and Raisi.
He said that President Raisi briefed the Prime Minister on the state of JCPOA negotiations.
Iran thinks that if India can purchase oil from it despite severe western sanctions imposed on Russia, then New Delhi can do the same with Iranian oil.
The United States and several other major nations, including Iran, came to a historic agreement known as the JCPOA in July 2015. In order to get billions of dollars in relief, Iran promised to destroy a large portion of its nuclear programme and permit international inspectors access to its facilities.
The European Union participated in the negotiations in addition to the P5+1, which is made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), as well as Germany.
The Trump administration, however, withdrew from the agreement in July 2018, asserting that it had failed to rein in Iran’s nuclear development. A year later, Iran started to violate the deal’s limitations.
Direct negotiations have not picked back up despite the Joe Biden administration’s efforts.
Raisi stated in an interview with Al Jazeera on Friday that lifting the US-led sanctions is essential if Washington wants to resurrect the accord.
Modi pitches for Chabahar Port at SCO
The two leaders discussed making Iran’s Chabahar port the primary hub for connectivity between India, Central Asia, and beyond with Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
India’s strategic importance in developing the Chabahar Port is enormous since it would enable India to circumvent Pakistan and get access to the markets of Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“Chabahar port is an important element of the regional connectivity pillar, as I mentioned, and this figured extensively and in some detail in [the] Prime Minister’s discussion with the President of Iran and of course with the President of Uzbekistan who are deeply interested in ensuring that the connectivity between India and the Central Asian countries improves,” said Kwatra.
“And of course, for us, connectivity improves not just with Central Asian countries, but even beyond the region,” he added.