TEHRAN – As a follow-up to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran in May, Iranian Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani arrived in New Delhi on Friday, seeking a counterterrorism trio with India and Russia.
“Iran is ready to revive concerted cooperation between Tehran, New Delhi, and Moscow to address security challenges,” said the Iranian official in his visit with Indian National Security advisor Ajit Doval on Saturday.
Particularly, the synergy can make inroads into the counterterrorism campaign and stability in Afghanistan, according to Shamkhani.
“Such reunion can act as a bulwark against terrorism and contribute to restoration of security and stability in Afghanistan.”
Shamkhani’s Indian counterpart also welcomed the initiative, saying, “The Indian government welcomes negotiations between India, China, Russia, and Iran in security, political, and economic sectors.”
The meeting comes after Tehran allowed Russian fighters and bombers to launch airstrikes in Syria, a development Iranian officials hailed as “strategic.”
As a military clout, India can make the troika more a show of defiance against Washington which is blaming both Iran and Russia for backing President Bashar al-Assad.
Closer cyber security and defense ties between Tehran and New Delhi
Elsewhere in his remarks, Shamkhani underscored Tehran and New Delhi can build large cyber security and defense capacities which can move regional capacities a notch forward.
“Achieving common analytical and strategic approaches in the light of successful defense cooperation between the two countries works toward boosting regional capacities to establish security and stability,” said the former defense minister.
The Indian national security advisor, for his part, appeared open to defense cooperation with Tehran, saying time is ripe for starting relevant talks.
“We are ready to lay the ground for strategic relations in the cyber security sector considering the capacities of the two sides,” said Ajit Doval.
Both Iran and India have developed home-grown military infrastructures, particularly producing a gamut of long-range missiles.
It is not yet clear whether the officials singed a defense pact during the visit. However, likely on the agenda should have been exchange of views on Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 multirole fighters, a pillar to the Indian air force.
In a recent televised interview, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan had said Iranians would be hearing soon good news about the purchasing of Sukhoi Su-30 fighters from Russia.
Already in February, Dehqan showed interest in the co-production of an undisclosed number of the fighters.
Another important area for cooperation between Iran and India is cyber security and the common threats both are feeling.
“A balanced ruling over the web space and laying the ground for all nations and states to benefit from the capacity fairly and ethically can form an axis for joint cooperation in the cyber security sector.”
Economy key to bilateral ties, Chabahr a regional cooperation model
In addition to defense and cyber security areas, Tehran and New Delhi have a third, yet important, common ground to build upon to boost bilateral ties.
During Modi’s visit to Tehran in May, the prime minister announced that India will build and operate a key Iranian port after talks with President Hassan Rouhani, investing $500m to develop the strategically important Chabahar port, close to Iran's border with Pakistan.
"The bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port and related infrastructure, and availability of about $500m from India for this purpose, is an important milestone. This major effort would boost economic growth in the region," Modi said in Tehran.
Shamkhani hailed the project as a symbol of “constructive economic cooperation” between all countries which wish to invest jointly.
“Flourishing extensive capacities of the Chabahar port symbolizes constructive economic cooperation between all countries which are interested in making investments in the region.”
On the first day of his two-day visit to India, Ali Shamkhani also visited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where the two sides stressed expansion of bilateral ties between the two countries.