During his February 15-17 visit to India, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani showered praises on the South Asian country for perfectly playing a leader’s role in the region.
President Rouhani believes that the West Asian nations can learn a lot from India at a time when fundamentalism and terrorism are posing a serious threat to the region. Speaking at an event in southern Indian city of Hyderabad, the Iranian leader said that India – one of the two secular states in South Asia – shows that people of different religions and ethnicities can co-exist peacefully. He expressed serious concern over the current political scenario in West Asia, saying that unity between Shias and Sunnis could only ensure peace in the region. He told the audience that Iran was ready to maintain brotherly relations with all the Muslim nations and other countries, like India. At the same time, he insisted that there could be no military solution to any conflict.
Meanwhile, President Rouhani reportedly accused the West of creating problems in West Asia, saying that the Americans and the Europeans have ruined relationships between Shias and Sunnis (with the help of Israel). He also blasted the West for creating a rift among Muslims by instigating certain groups and outfits. “They portray themselves as Islamic groups, but we call them ‘takfiri’. All those who follow ‘qibla’ (the direction in which Muslims offer namaz) and believe that there is no god, but Allah and Mohammad is His last messenger are living together as brothers,” explained the visiting president. He once again urged the Arab nations to follow India’s path and to resist the West together. “India is a living museum of different ethnicities and religions peacefully co-existing. This process is going on for centuries. Shias, Sunnis, Sufis, Hindus, Sikhs and others are living together. They together built their country and built their civilisation,” stressed Rouhani.
As far as India-Iran ties are concerned, the visiting president said that the two countries share the same historical roots and also have some common goals. According to Rohani, India – like Iran – is ready to help other countries in the region, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, restore peace. He hinted that India and Iran would work together to end conflicts and bloodshed in the region, especially in Syria. The president is of the opinion that by enhancing brotherhood with all Muslim nations and strengthening ties with ‘secular’ countries, like India, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria can defeat the Islamic State and the Western allies of the terror outfit.
“Iran is not seeking any discord with the other Muslim countries, who have age-old relations with us. We believe that in case of differences, bullet is the not the solution. Dialogue and logic are the tools at our disposal to overcome the differences. There is no military solution. The solution has to be political,” said Rouhani.
The Iranian president recalled that Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Christians used to live together in Iraq and Syria in the past. However, the West created rift in the region. “We want to spread peace and also engage in dialogue while defending our rights. In case of need, we do believe in resistance and steadfastness,” he told the Indian audience.
Rouhani strongly criticised the ‘enemies of Islam’ (read West) for portraying the religion as a ‘religion of violence’, saying: “The fact is that Islam is a religion of moderation, tolerance and forgiveness.” He urged India to help Muslim countries eradicate evils.
It is to be noted that the Iranian leader visited India just a week after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s four-day three-nation trip to West Asia. Although the Indian PM hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January, Modi’s visit to Palestine in February has changed the equation. Iran, like other Arab nations, wants India to play the mediator’s role in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
with Indian President and PM
Before leaving for Tehran, President Rouhani met his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind in New Delhi and also held talks with Prime Minister Modi to discuss various important bilateral, regional and global issues. In the presence of the two leaders, senior Indian and Iranian officials signed nine pacts to boost bilateral trade, defence and cultural ties. The pacts included a key agreement that leases operational control of part of the Iranian port of Chabahar to India for 18 months.
According to sources close to the External Affairs Ministry, President Rouhani assured Prime Minister Modi that Tehran would increase the freight discount on oil sales to India. He made the assurance after New Delhi agreed to boost imports, allowing Iran to eat into the market share of other OPEC members, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
In the Indian capital, President Rouhani vowed to comply with Tehran’s commitments to the 2015 international nuclear deal signed by Iran, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China. With US President Donald Trump pushing for changes in the deal, Rouhani said: “Now, the person who is in fact a businessman and has haggled for his whole business life, they think the world of politics and business are similar. If the US violates this agreement – I don’t want to speak empty words, I just… I say here for the record, you will see that America will regret its decision. They won’t even hesitate, don’t have any doubts, not only the US administration, but also the US people.” He made clear that Iran had always respected the contract and would do so as long as other parties also adhered to them.
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