Snubbed on video, Iran Foreign Minister scraps visit

    Snubbed on video, Iran Foreign Minister scraps visit

    A blink-and-miss two-second shot of Iranian women cutting their hair in protest, juxtaposed with an image of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has upset Tehran, forcing their Foreign Minister to cancel his visit to India next month, The Indian Express has learnt.

    Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was due to travel to India for the Raisina dialogue scheduled for March 3 and 4. The Raisina Dialogue is the flagship think-tank event organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

    A promotional video of the Raisina Dialogue was put out about a month ago, announcing the 2023 edition of the event. In the clip, just under two minutes, a two-second shot of Iranian women cutting their hair in protests is shown, along with an image of the Iranian President.

    This angered the Iranian embassy which was preparing for the visit of Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian to India. Sources said the Iranian embassy reached out to ORF and the MEA, objected to the portrayal of their President and the protesters side-by-side and asked them to delete the sequence. However, the organisers didn’t oblige.

    Upset at the turn of events, the Iranian government has informed the organisers that the minister will not be able to travel for the Raisina Dialogue.

    Iran has witnessed protests since September last year after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was taken into custody by Iran’s morality police for wearing what authorities called  “inappropriate” headscarf. She later died, drawing allegations of custodial violence.

    Significantly, New Delhi has not commented on the protests since they erupted. And last November, India abstained on a resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to set up a fact-finding mission into alleged human rights violations in Iran committed on the protesters in the country by state authorities.

    India’s was one of 16 abstentions on the resolution, sponsored by Germany and the Netherlands. But the resolution at the UNHRC was passed, with 25 votes in favour, seven against and 16 abstentions, at a special session of the 47-member human rights body.

    The ORF video features clips of Prime Minister Narendra Modi including his remarks to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the  Samarkand summit when he said, “This isn’t an era of war.”  It also has clips of Putin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, US President Joe Biden and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

    There are over 20 Foreign Ministers expected to come for the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting on March 1 and 2. Since Raisina Dialogue is scheduled just after the meeting, some are expected to stay back and join the event this year. Some other Foreign Ministers, not from G-20 countries, are coming especially for the Raisina dialogue.

    India and Iran have a long history of diplomatic ups and downs, and in recent years, ties have developed a strategic dimension because of Afghanistan. India had stopped oil imports from Iran over the threat of sanctions during the Trump administration and imports have still not picked up at earlier levels. While both share concerns on Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, India has been working on developing the Chabahar port project that enables connectivity to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian had visited India in June last year, days after the controversial remarks made by BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma had sparked outrage in many Muslim-majority countries. After meeting the PM, Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval, Amir-Abdollahian had issued a statement that the two countries agreed on the need to “respect divine religions,” “Islamic sanctities,” and “avoid divisive statements.”

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