The regional security conference organised in New Delhi on 10 November, which mainly dealt with Afghanistan, enabled its main organiser, Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval, along with Samant Goel, head of the Indian external intelligence service, Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), to renew their contacts with India’s regional allies. Pakistan and China were notable absentees, however, even though both were invited.
Spy chiefs from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan all made the journey, nevertheless, as did Russian national security adviser Nikolai Patrushev, who had already visited New Delhi in September shortly after the fall of Kabul, and Iranian supreme national security council secretary Ali Shmakhani. All came to talk about the attitude they planned to adopt towards the Taliban regime now in control of Afghanistan, as New Delhi bids to become the regional intelligence hub on Afghanistan, given that Pakistan is backing the regime .
Shamkhani was given particular consideration by Doval. The two men had a one-to-one meeting during the conference to discuss Afghanistan. Doval’s aim was to revive bilateral security cooperation between India and Iran, which has seriously deteriorated in recent months.
Cooperation cut short
Last year, with cooperation between the two countries still in the early stages, New Delhi evacuated a dozen or so Indian military engineers who were working to set up a naval base with a radar and interceptions station at the port of Chabahar in response to the anger of its intelligence services over the growing Chinese presence in the port. Iran, meanwhile, has made a number of complaints about India, accusing it, notably, of giving in to American pressure to stop buying Iranian oil and of dragging out work at the port of Chabahar.
India hopes to re-establish the relationship the two countries had in February 2019, when they signed a wide-ranging pact enabling Indian defence companies to supply military equipment to Iran and set up facilities for the repair and maintenance of Iranian defence forces’ Russian-built equipment. The good relations between the two countries’ intelligence services were brought to an end, however, by the departure from office of former president Hassan Rohani and the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force and the key architect of the defence cooperation agreement between the two countries.
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