Welcome remarks by Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director General, IDSA at the 9th IDSA-IPIS Dialogue, December 12, 2012
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  • December 12, 2012

    HE Dr. Mustafa Dolatyar, DG IPIS
    Mr Yash Sinha, AD PAI, MEA,
    Amb Gharkahn,
    Distinguished participants,

    Heartiest welcome to HE Dr Mustafa Dolatyar, Ambasador Rouzbehani, Mr. Mohsen Pakparvar, Chargé d'affaires of Embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran, New Delhi and the members of the Iranian delegation.

    I am grateful to Sh Yash K Sinha, AS PAI, who is in charge of the Iran desk at the MEA, for having agreed to deliver a keynote address at the round table today.

    The IDSA-IPIS dialogue has assumed consistency. This is the ninth round. It is an important event in our mutual calendars. Our discussions have provided us the opportunity to exchange views and keep ourselves updated on contemporary international and regional situations.

    I also acknowledge with thanks the facilities provided by the IPIS to one of our scholars to learn Persian in Teheran earlier this year. We intend to continue scholarly exchanges in future also.

    This dialogue is being held in the wake of PM’s very successful visit to Tehran in August for the 16th NAM summit. The PM also had a bilateral official visit to Teheran where he met the Supreme Leader and President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. PM’s visit was much needed and timely. He described his discussions with the Supreme Leader as ‘philosophical”. The two leaders discussed the civilisational links between India and Iran and their continuing relevance. No doubt both countries follow policies governed by their national interests but do so in the backdrop of close civilisational, historical and cultural ties. This helps in resolving the outstanding issues in a spirit of mutual understanding. It is hoped that the visit would have given an impetus to further growth of our ties.

    This round of discussions is being held in the backdrop of evolving situation in the Gulf and West Asia. Egypt and Syria are in turmoil. Tunis, Morocco, Yemen have seen leadership change. The unrest has been controlled only through the intervention of foreign troops. Israel Palestinian relations are worsening as seen during the recent crisis in Gaza. Iran is an important regional player. The relation between Iran and & Saudi Arabia will have a major impact on the regional situation. We would like to understand the Iranian perspectives on the so called ‘Arab Spring’.

    India’s political, economic, energy and security interests are involved in these regions on both sides of the Gulf. More than six million of our compatriots live in this region. West Asian region is going to be significant for India in securing its energy demands. Today, Saudi Arabia supplies 14,049.15 million tonnes of crude oil followed by Iran which caters for 10,193.27mt. The UAE supplies 5,448.84mtof oil. We import nearly sixty percent of our oil from the Gulf.) Despite recent decline in oil imports from Iran due to payment related issues, Iran remains major source of oil for us. Iran has great strategic importance for us which was publicly spoken by our former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao at this forum two years ago. Therefore, it is very important for us to understand Iranian perspectives and also convey our own view point to the Iranian friends. The dialogues such as this help enhance mutual understanding.

    Both countries would be keenly watching the changing global situation. President Obama has been re-elected. Will the US policy on Iran shift in his second term? We will exchange views on this issue. A new leadership is about to take over in China. How will this impact on China’s bilateral relations with Iran and with India? How will it affect the regional situation where China is already a major economic player? Russia’s relevance in Eurasia region is unmatched. Russia, China & US often have different approaches at the UN Security Council. What impact will this have on global situation? These issues are also worth exploring.

    As we hold this dialogue, the political and security situation in Afghanistan does not look too promising. The ISAF forces are set to withdraw by 2014 but some US troops will most likely remain behind. The process of reconciliation with the Taliban has not made visible progress. India has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan signalling our long term commitment to that country. What role does Iran intend to play in Afghanistan? How should one deal with the negative role of Pakistan to which even President Karzai has hinted following assassination bid on his Intelligence Chief, Asadullah Khalid. Is there a prospect for a regional solution? We will like to explore whether Iran and India can work together in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan.

    The nuclear issue has lost none of its salience. In January 2012, an Iranian official announced that Iran was starting production of nuclear material at a second major uranium enrichment site. This led to a flurry of diplomatic activity. Several rounds of discussions were held between Iran, the US and other major powers in Istanbul. A round of talk was held in May in Baghdad. Iran and six countries met in Moscow in June. Technical level discussions were held in July. No clear sign of progress has emerged. Fresh round of sanctions was initiated by the US and EU in the summer of 2012 with a view to cut off Iran from the global market. In the recent years, Iran has also become a target of cyber attacks. Some of which were linked to its nuclear programme. In the meanwhile, the supreme leader has reiterated the position that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon. The Israelis have been talking about a military action. The IAEA reports seem to add to the confusion. It continues to impact Iran-US relations. What is the status of discussions on the nuclear question? What is the present situation with regard to Iran and IAEA relations? We will like to get an assessment from our Iranian colleagues of the impact of the sanctions on Iran’s economy.

    India has said that it wants to maintain good relations with Iran yet the sanctions have inevitably impacted on the economic ties. There is as serious problem of how to pay for the import of the Iranian oil. There is also need to take a measure of our energy ties. Earlier Iran accounted for 12 percent of India’s oil imports but now it has come down to 9 percent. We will take stock of bilateral relations in the afternoon session.

    Tomorrow the delegation will visit the Panjab University where they would meet students and faculty, including some Iranian students. They will have the chance to see some of India’s diversity.

    We are looking forward to a productive day of discussions.

    I would like to thank all our participants to this dialogue.

    Thank you.