Updated May 20th, 2024 at 16:33 IST

Chabahar to BRICS: How India-Iran Ties Shaped Under Ebrahim Raisi's Tenure | Explained

President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, along with other leaders were killed after their helicopter crashed on Sunday.

Reported by: Apoorva Shukla
PM Narendra Modi with Ebrahim Raisi | Image: X/ PMO
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New Delhi: Remembering Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed his contribution in strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship. His contribution will always be remembered, said PM Modi. As the cold war ended, India established cordial relations with most of the countries in West Asia. Iran holds prominence in New Delhi's foreign policy due to its geographical locations. Iran shares border with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ebrahim Raisi took over as Iran's President in 2021, succeeding Hassan Rouhani, often called as the moderate one. Raisi and his foreign minister Amir-Abdollahian, both of whom were killed in the helicopter crash, were key to some of the major agreements with India in the recent years including the Chabahar port. Ties between India and Iran achieved new heights under the Modi-Raisi rule.

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What Happened in Iran?

President Ebrahim Raisi, the country's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, along with other leaders were killed after their helicopter crashed in a foggy, mountainous region of the country's northwest on Sunday. The incident happened when Raisi, along with his colleagues, was returning on Sunday after travelling to Iran's border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev.

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Helicopter Crash Site 

 

After almost 12 hours of intense operation, search teams located the helicopter of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday. A Turkish drone Akinci identified a heat source in the accident region following which Iran mobilised over 70 search teams to trace the whereabouts of Raisi and other members on board the helicopter. No signs of life was found at the side, and the rescue teams retrieved bodies of Raisi along with his other colleagues aboard chopper. The bodies of the leaders were transported to Tabriz city in Iran, said Red Crescent Society, where they would be buried.

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Dead Bodies Recovered by Rescue Teams 

 

How PM Modi Remembered Raisi

PM Modi on Monday expressed shock and sadness at the demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and said his contribution in strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered.

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"Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow," the Indian Prime Minister said in a post on X.

The two leaders met for the first time in-person in September 2022 on the sidelines of the SCO summit. The two leaders  were in Uzbek city of Samarkand to attend the 22nd Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit (SCO) summit. As they met, they discussed bilateral ties, reviewed the progress in the development of Chabahar Port and regional developments including Afghanistan.

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PM Modi with President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran

 

India's External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said, "Deeply shocked to hear of the passing away of Iran’s President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister H. Amir-Abdollahian, in the helicopter crash. Recall my many meetings with them, most recently in January 2024. Our condolences to their families. We stand with the people of Iran at time of this tragedy."

A Look Back At India-Iran Relations

India-Iran relations span centuries marked by meaningful interactions, said the Indian External Affairs Ministry. Iran and India shared a border till 1947 and diplomatic relations were established on March 15, 1950 between Iran and independent India. Speaking of initial high-level visits, the Shah visited India in March 1956 and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Iran in September 1959. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Iran in April 1974 and Prime Minister Morarji Desai visited in June 1977. The Shah, in turn, visited India in February 1978.

The trend was continued by upcoming leaders. Vajpayee visited Iran in 2001, followed by a return-visit by President Mohammad Khatami in 2003, when he was also the Chief Guest at the Republic Day function. PM Modi visited Iran in 2018 during his first term on the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani.  

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PM Modi with former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

 

India-Iran Relations in Raisi Years

While domestically Ebrahim Raisi's rule have been marred with protests, it has been a witness to major development of the country's ties with New Delhi.  Iran has been a key country for India in the Gulf region since independence. Further, India has been in touch with Iran over the developments in Afghanistan as well following its takeover by the Taliban on August 15, 2021.

 Recently, New Delhi signed a historic deal to operate the strategic Iranian port of Chabahar that will help it expand trade with Central Asia. This is the first time India will take over the management of an overseas port. 

The Chabahar port, situated on the Gulf of Oman is aimed at providing New Delhi gateway to reach landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia using a road and rail project called International North-South Transport Corridor, bypassing Pakistan. Chabahar is an oceanic port. By leveraging Chabahar Port, India aims to bypass Pakistan and establish direct access to Afghanistan and beyond, into Central Asia.

 

Shipping Minister Sarbananda Sonowal signed a deal to operate Chabahar Port

 

Located in Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran's southern coast, the Chabahar port is being developed by New Delhi and Tehran with an aim of boosting connectivity and trade ties. Kandla port in Gujarat is the closest to the Chabahar port at 550 Nautical Miles while the distance between Chabahar and Mumbai is 786 Nautical Miles. 

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Further, India has advocated for Iran's entry into the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), a development which took shape in the last one year. With Mohammad Mokhber being appointed as the interim president till Iran elects a new leader, it would  be a tough job for Tehran to keep up the ties with several partners. 

 

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Published May 20th, 2024 at 16:28 IST