At a time when the United States and Iran are at loggerheads over Tehran's nuclear program, Iranian and U.S. delegations were both in New Delhi this week to hold separate meetings with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
The Iranian delegate, which was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araghchi, was in town on Tuesday to hold the 10th round of the Indo-Iranian Foreign Office Consolations. The two sides reportedly discussed a host of different bilateral issues, including: India’s wheat exports to Iran, the Chabahar Port in Southeastern Iran, consular access and the release of an Indian fisherman who was being held by Iran after straying too far into its territorial waters, and India’s ongoing request for Iran to cooperate more in New Delhi’s continued investigation into the attack on an Israeli Diplomat’s wife here last winter. Iran’s dialogue with the P5+1 powers was also expected to be discussed.
On Friday, William Burns, the number two at the U.S. State Department, arrived in New Delhi on Friday where he will hold meetings with Foreign Secretary Mathai and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. Burns is currently on the last leg of a regional trip that has taken him to China, Japan, South Korea, and Burma. According to press reports here, Afghanistan and, interestingly enough, Iran, were the two subjects expected to top the agenda during Friday’s meeting. On Saturday the two sides were expected to delve into a broader array of topics including the East Asia Summit (EAS), democratic reforms in Burma, and the implementation of the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear energy deal.
Indian officials sought to downplay the significance of the consultations between Burns and Mathai over Iran. A spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, for instance, said it was normal for the two sides to discuss this issue given how recently Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister had been in town.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna is expected to follow up on Tuesday’s meeting with Iran by visiting Tehran next month.