Sushma embarks on visit to Iran, Russia

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday embarked on a four-day visit to Iran and Russia that will see her attend a bilateral joint commission meeting in Tehran and a trilateral meeting later in Moscow with her counterparts from Russia and China.

In Tehran, Sushma will hold meetings with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, and also co-chair a meeting of the India-Iran Joint Commission that will review the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

Her visit follows that of Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was in Iran last week.

The Iran visit also comes two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, during which both sides discussed ways to scale up their strategic ties.

Besides oil, India has vital stakes in connectivity projects in Iran, like the Chabahar port, that will open up physical connectivity with Central Asia and Afghanistan.

In Moscow, during the Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers’ meeting, on April 18, Sushma would meet her counterparts Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Wang Yi from China. She is expected to raise with Wang the issue of China blocking India’s bid to ban Jaish-e-Mohamed chief Masood Azhar in the UN.

Russia is likely to voice its concerns over India mulling signing a military logistics agreement with the US. India counts Russia among its trusted friends and during Modi’s visit to Moscow last December for the annual summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin, both sides inked major deals in defence cooperation as well as in other spheres.

Sushma, announcing her visit, tweeted that she will raise the issue of the death of two Indian girl students in a Russian medical college hostel fire and of a medical student from Srinagar in a Russian city during her Moscow trip.

“I am going to Moscow. The final investigation report into fire tragedy in which we lost Pooja Kallur and Krishna Bhonsle is on my agenda,” Sushma posted.

Kallur, 22, from Navi Mumbai and her room-mate Bhonsle, 21, from Pune, perished in the fire which broke out in their hostel on February 14 in the Smolensk State Medical Academy, Smolensk, around 380 km southwest of Moscow.

In a separate tweet, Sushma said she would also take up the issue of Yasir Javed, an Indian national from Srinagar who was killed after being attacked in the Russian city of Kazan by unknown people.

A medical student, Yasir had reached Russia on February 26 on a business trip and was attacked in Kazan city in the Tatarstan republic that left him in a coma.

He died on March 8.