How Ibrahim Raisi's Death Impacts India-Iran Relations, India Stands With Iran
How Ibrahim Raisi's Death Impacts India-Iran Relations, India Stands With Iran
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who tragically passed away in a helicopter crash the previous day. In a message on X (formerly Twitter), PM Modi conveyed India's solidarity with Iran during this difficult time.

"I am deeply saddened by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His efforts to strengthen the bilateral relationship between India and Iran will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow," said the Prime Minister.

A day after Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister died in a helicopter crash, the Indian government announced that 21 May would be observed as a day of mourning throughout the country.

The helicopter carrying Raisi, along with other officials including Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollhian, crashed on Sunday in the Dizmar forest, in East Azarbaijan Province, as reported by state media. Unfortunately, there were no survivors.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also expressed shock and sorrow at Raisi's sudden demise. Raisi, aged 63, was elected as President in 2021 and was considered a leading candidate to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

India-Iran Relations

Prime Minister Modi's most recent meeting with President Raisi was in August 2023, prior to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. India supported Tehran’s membership in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), and Iran officially joined this intergovernmental alliance in September 2023 during the South Africa BRICS summit.

India and Iran have long-standing historical and cultural ties. Over the past few decades, India has maintained friendly relations with regional countries, including Iran, which shares borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Bilateral trade relations have improved significantly since Raisi assumed office in 2021. In 2022-23, Iran was India’s 59th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $2.33 billion—a 21.77% increase from $1.94 billion in 2021-22, according to a report.

"For India, Iran plays a stabilizing role in the Persian Gulf, and military and security cooperation between the two countries has been increasing," wrote Jayanth Jacob, a foreign policy commentator, in Deccan Herald.

Expectations Moving Forward

In August 2021, India was among the select countries invited to President Raisi’s inauguration. However, experts believe that Raisi's untimely death is unlikely to alter the course of India-Iran relations significantly, as Iran’s broader foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by the Supreme Leader, not the President.

"Under President Raisi, Iran pursued a strategy of deepening ties with Asian powers, including India. Progress on regional connectivity projects, such as the INSTC and Chabahar port, highlights Iran's strategic view of its relations with India," explained Deepika Saraswat, Associate Fellow at the New Delhi-based Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Chabahar Port Deal

On May 13, India and Iran signed a ten-year contract for the Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran, marking a significant milestone after years of negotiations. The deal aims to fully utilize the port, developed with Indian assistance, to expand trade with Central Asia. It replaces the previous practice of signing annual contracts to keep the port operational.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the Chabahar Port pact as an important achievement that will provide much-needed connectivity to Afghanistan. "During my 2016 visit to Iran, we signed a trilateral agreement between India, Iran, and Afghanistan to enhance connectivity to Afghanistan," PM Modi told news agency PTI.

The deaths of President Raisi and the Foreign Minister, key figures in Iranian foreign policy decisions, may cause delays but are unlikely to disrupt the Chabahar Port deal, which requires final approval from the Supreme Leader.

Under the Iranian constitution, in the event of a President's death, the First Vice President assumes office. Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s incumbent First Vice President, has been appointed interim President, pending the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's approval. Elections for the next President are scheduled to be held within 50 days.

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