India, Iran discuss cooperation over Afghanistan


New Delhi : India and Iran explored prospects of cooperation in stabilising Afghanistan and in combating terrorism Saturday, a day after US President Barack Obama unveiled a regional approach towards the violence-torn country.

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The situation in Afghanistan figured prominently in discussions between National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Iran’s Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, who was on a day-long visit to India.

He also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed a host of bilateral and regional issues, including cooperation in combating terrorism flowing from the region.

Iran enjoys enormous clout with Hazara and Uzbek tribes in Afghanistan due to religious and cultural affinities.

In his new strategy on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region unveiled Friday, Obama spoke about setting up a contact group comprising key regional players with stakes in the stability of Afghanistan.

The proposed contact group seeks to involve India, Iran, Russia, China, the Gulf nations and Central Asian states in a common regional approach to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Narayanan and Jalili also conducted a strategic review of the entire gamut of India-Iran relations and explored prospects for bolstering multi-faceted ties between the two countries.

The $7.6 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline also figured in the discussions.

“Their wide-ranging discussions also covered regional and international issues including terrorism, the situation in Afghanistan and energy security,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement Saturday night.

The meeting took place at a time when the US is trying to thaw frosty ties with Iran which sunk to a new low during the George W. Bush administration due to differences over Tehran’s nuclear programme.