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Iran-India meeting in Tehran focuses on de-dollarization, averting sanctions

Iran urged India to launch a rial-rupee mechanism in bilateral trade, as the Islamic Republic pursues the "look to the East" policy as a strategy to mitigate the onerous impacts of US sanctions on its oil-dependent economy.
India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (L) and Jammu and Kashmir state governor Satya Pal Malik (R) attend a ceremony to celebrate India's 73rd Independence Day, which marks the end of British colonial rule, in Srinagar on August 15, 2019. (Photo by Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)

TEHRAN — Iran and India signed a joint statement of cooperation on Monday covering multiple areas, including trade and transport, as Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval sat down with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Shamkhani, in Tehran.    

Shamkhani requested that a rial-rupee mechanism be activated in trade ties between the two countries, according to a report by Nour News, the official outlet of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. Such mechanisms, the Iranian security chief said, will play a "pivotal role" in bilateral trade.   

Iran and India have historically maintained overall friendly ties and relatively stable economic interactions. Yet India's uncertainties and concerns arising from potential US punitive measures have frequently gotten in the way. Once a leading customer of Iranian oil, New Delhi has refrained from such purchases since 2019 — one year after Washington reinstated crippling sanctions on Tehran by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.  

Following the joint statement, India's ABP Live TV also reported that Tehran has requested that India resume Iranian crude purchases in the very pattern it is currently using for oil from Russia, which is under similar US sanctions.  

The statement signed by the two security chiefs also touched upon the increasingly significant regional connectivity and how the two sides should boost involvement in the International North-South Transport Corridor, a strategic route that passes through the southeastern Iranian Port of Chabahar.  

In 2016, India signed more whopping investment contracts with the Islamic Republic, adding to an earlier 2002 agreement aimed at developing the hub on the coasts of the Gulf of Oman, just under the nose of its regional foe, Pakistan.  

The United States provided India with a rare Iran sanctions waiver for Chabahar projects in 2018.  

Nevertheless, New Delhi has occasionally been accused by Iranian media, experts and some Iranian officials of dragging its feet in pursuing the vitally needed projects.  

The Indian security chief also met with President Ebrahim Raisi, who underlined the two sides' roles in shaping what he described as "a new world order" in which Iran is envisioning itself as a major player.   

In its "look to the East" roadmap, the Islamic Republic has been increasingly focusing on boosting ties with China, Russia, India as well as its immediate neighbors, as the leadership in Tehran scrambles to push back on US and European sanctions.   

Raisi particularly noted the significance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the emergence of such an order. His administration has been taking full credit for Iran's accession into the regional body, an ambitious project laid out and chased by his pro-engagement and moderate predecessor, Hassan Rouhani. 

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