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Reports on Speech/Lecture

Name of Event: 
"Round Table Discussion with
H.E. Mr. Ali Ardashir Larijani
Chairman of the Majlis-e Shura-e Islami (Parliament) of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Date:  26 February 2013
Venue:  Sapru House, New Delhi

A Round Table Discussion (RTD) was held on 26 February 2013 at Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi with H.E. Mr. Ali Ardashir Larijani Chairman of the Majlis-e Shura-e Islami (Parliament) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was chaired by Ambassador K.C. Singh, former Indian Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran and United Arab Emirates. The RTD was attended by a large delegation from Iranian side including H.E. Mr. Hassan Ghashghavi, Deputy Minister for Consular and Parliamentary Affairs of Foreign Affairs Ministry of Iran, H.E. Ambassador Gholam Reza Ansari, Ambassador of Iran to India and several members of Parliament of Iran. Prominent participants from India included Ambassador Rajiv K. Bhatia, Director General, ICWA, Ambassador Kanwal Sibbal, Ambassador K.P. Fabian and Ambassador Sikri.

While welcoming the Iranian delegation, Ambassador Rajiv K. Bhatia noted that the presence of a large number of participants in the discussion demonstrated good relationship shared by India and Iran. In his speech, Mr. Ali Larijani commended ICWA for its involvement in strategic studies and emphasised its role in India's foreign policy formulation. Further, he attached great importance to India.

Mr. Larijani contextualised Iran's current image and noted that the country was being portrayed in a particular way by the West. Iran had witnessed several distinct phases since World War II and the current phase was just one of the many phases of the country. Iran was witness to the Cold War being played by the major powers. After the end of the Cold War, the world witnessed the domination by one Super Power. Although this era was short lived, it imposed heavy consequences such as military unilateralism which caused several wars such as those witnessed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. Due to these wars the 'back bone' of the U.S. has now broken.

Mr. Larijani remarked that the world is entering a new era; for some this era represents the idea of Hegel and the idea of 'End of History.' However, this theory cannot last for a long time. A more realistic theory is that of a multi-polar world; several states are showing great capabilities and wish to play an important role in this era. These states exhibit the following characteristics:

*     Independence: These states strive to retain independence in their decisions pertaining to the matters of their national importance.

*   Democracy: They are the supporter of democracy which has been facilitated by the communication and information technology revolution.

*     Regionalism: For these states, regionalism is an important facilitator of mutual cooperation.

He concluded the first part of his speech by saying that the successful countries are those that find trustworthy allies in the region; regional friends play complementary role to each other and the countries of East can become one.

India-Iran Relations
Talking about India-Iran relations, Mr. Larijani recalled the historical bonds and highlighted how Persian language was widespread in India before the arrival of the British. He observed that Iran and India can complement each other and their needs can be mutually fulfilled through cooperation in science and technology. India can also get access to new markets through Iran.

Mr. Larijani, however, cautioned that there are 'enemies' to this relationship who do not want a multi-polar world. He concluded by lamenting that these powers keep emerging countries busy in various conflicts so that they do not become strong.

The Chair, Ambassador K.C. Singh, agreed with Mr. Larijani that India and Iran understand each other well. However, he expressed his disagreement over the status of the U.S. as a Super Power. He said that while it is true that the U.S. is retreating from the Gulf region, it is not true that the U.S. is declining and it will continue to play an important role in the region. He concluded by agreeing with Mr. Larijani that a multi-polar world is in the interest of the world.

The Question and Answer round witnessed active involvement by the participants. Issues related to Iran's nuclear programme, Syria, role of the U.S. and India-Iran relation were raised and Mr. Larijani answered all these questions in great detail.

Mr. Larijani defended Iran's right to civil nuclear energy. He said that according to the rules of the IAEA, Iran is entitled to receive nuclear material. However, Iran did not get it and it was forced to undertake 20 per cent enrichment of Uranium to meet its needs. He also said that Western sanctions on Iran are not going to last forever.

In a question related to the ongoing tensions in Syria, Mr. Larijani said that that the political reform from inside was needed for democracy in Syria and military intervention by supplying arms was not right.

When asked about his long term vision for cooperation between India and Iran, Mr. Larijani listed the following points:

*       India and Iran can have good cooperation in Afghanistan.

*       The two countries can have joint ventures for access to Central Asia, Middle East and Caucuses.

*       Iran can help India with its energy requirements by supplying oil and gas and by building pipelines over land and at sea.

*       India and Iran can have joint role in the region.

Report by:     Dr. Asif Shuja, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs