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Ignored, India works phones

India has been walking on eggshells since Friday morning, advocating restraint and careful not to take sides
Sourced by the Correspondent

Anita Joshua   |   New Delhi   |   Published 05.01.20, 09:53 PM

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar dialled his US and Iranian counterparts on Sunday as tensions escalated in West Asia after the US killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in an air strike on Friday.

This is the first acknowledged contact that India has had with both capitals since the assassination of Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps international operations (Qods Force).

Though the foreign ministers of both the US and Iran have reached out to various capitals over the past 48 hours, New Delhi was not on their call list.

On Sunday evening, Jaishankar tweeted about his conversation with Iran foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif without revealing much. “Just concluded a conversation with FM @JZarif of Iran. Noted that developments have taken a very serious turn. India remains deeply concerned about the levels of tension. We agreed to remain in touch.”

Hours later, Jaishankar was back on Twitter to say that he had also spoken to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

“Had a telephonic discussion with Secretary of State @SecPompeo on the evolving situation in the Gulf region. Highlighted India’s stakes and concerns,” Jaishankar tweeted.

India has been walking on eggshells since Friday morning, advocating restraint and careful not to take sides given that New Delhi values bilateral relations with both the US and Iran.

In its terse statement on Soleimani’s killing on Friday, the only indication that India was not buying into US President Donald Trump’s diatribe on the Qods commander was the reference to him as “senior Iranian leader”.

India also chose not to react to Trump’s attempt to draw New Delhi in by holding Soleimani responsible for terrorist plots in the capital — apparently a reference to the bombing of the car of an Israeli diplomat based here in 2012.

Soleimani, according to former Indian ambassador to Iran K.C. Singh, had worked with India to counter the Taliban in the 1990s and also backed Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masood in Afghanistan.

India not receiving a call from Pompeo, who has dialled over a dozen world capitals including Pakistan, China and Afghanistan in the neighbourhood to explain Soleimani’s killing, has drawn some chatter online.

This is particularly because of the amount Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested in his relationship with Trump, even providing him the “HowdyModi” platform in Houston in September to reach out to the Indian diaspora, which has traditionally been a support base for the Democrats.

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