Iran expected to participate at IOR conclave

NEW DELHI: Iran is likely to be among a number of regional countries that will take part in the first of its kind conclave of Indian Ocean Region (IOR) defence ministers at the upcoming AeroIndia exhibition in Bengaluru next month.

Sources have told ET that Brig Gen Amir Hatami is expected to be in India for the meeting, in what would be the first stand alone visit by an Iranian defence minister since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Other nations that are likely to take part in the conclave include the Maldives, Comoros and Madagascar, with invites sent to 28 states of the IOR grouping.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, more confirmations are expected just ahead of the conference, but all invited nations will be represented at the conclave either in person or virtually, sources told ET. The conclave is to take place on Feb 4 at the AeroIndia show where India will prominently display defence equipment it has on offer for exports, including the LCA fighter jets and a range of helicopters and missiles.

ET was the first to report on January 9 that India will be hosting the IOR Defence Ministers conclave at the show. A book and a movie on India’s vision for the IOR will be released at the conclave, which will be followed by seminars hosted by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard on cooperation in the region. An air chief’s conclave has also been planned.

Brig Gen Hatami’s visit will be a significant event, given India’s growing security ties with the US and all eyes on the approach of the Biden administration to the region. The Iranian official is coming at the invitation of defence minister Rajnath Singh, who met him in Tehran (enroute from Moscow to Delhi) in September 2020.

The conclave assumes significance in the backdrop of China’s increasing military presence in the Indian Ocean Region where India has been a traditional net security provider. From medicines to food during Covid to vaccines as a gift to IOR nations, India has been at the forefront and the projection as a reliable supplier of arms can add to its heft.

Major foreign participants include companies from the US, Russia, France and Israel that have set up shop in India in recent years and already have joint ventures underway with Indian manufacturers, with sources saying over 50 nations will be represented at the show. India plans to showcase its home-grown rotary wing fleet, which has potential for exports to friendly foreign nations, as a centrepiece of the show.

Indigenous platforms like the Light Combat Helicopter, a weaponised version of the Advanced Light Helicopter as well as the new Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) will be displayed prominently at the show, which will also see a variety of home-grown aircraft flying, including the Tejas fighter jet and two sets of trainers, besides missiles like the Akash surface-to-air missiles that have been cleared for exports by PM Narendra Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security.

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