At last minute, Khurshid calls off his visit to Iran

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has called off his visit to Iran at the last minute, fueling speculation that he did not want Tehran to be his first port of call after assuming office.

Khurshid's predecessor S M Krishna had confirmed the visit to Iran well in advance, but the change of guard in the MEA has resulted in dates being revised.

Insiders pointed out that diplomatic commitments are usually honoured even if ministers change. Khurshid's decision was conveyed to the Iranian ambassador only on Monday, just a day before the minister's planned departure.

The external affairs minister's only visit abroad has been to Laos for a multilateral event, the Asia Europe Meet, and a stopover meeting during the trip with the Thai foreign minister at Bangkok. Iran would have been his first bilateral visit something Khurshid conveyed to Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Mehdi Akhonzadeh when he attended the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation meet in Gurgaon this month.

Officially, the Indian side has cited Parliament's upcoming winter session as the reason for Khurshid's inability to travel.

However, sources said, the visit was supposed to have been over November 20-22, which meant that the minister would at the most have missed only one day in Parliament.

The visit was meant to have been more than symbolic. It was to be the occasion for Khurshid and his counterpart to chair the Indo-Iran Joint Commission which had an exhaustive agenda of joint projects. Project exports is one of the ways India is pushing to pay Iran, which is facing western sanctions.

When contacted, Khurshid confirmed the postponement of the visit and said he had instructed his officials to work out fresh dates in early January. He added that he had spoken to the Iranian ambassador and informed him of his decision.

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