Iran, India relations span centuries marked by meaningful interactions

New Delhi, Jan 22, IRNA – Iran and India relations span centuries marked by meaningful interactions, according to renowned Iranian Scholar based in India, Dr. Mohammad Ajam.

The two countries shared a border till 1947 and share several common features in their language, culture and traditions. Both South Asia and the Persian Gulf have strong commercial, energy, cultural and people-to-people links.

Independent India and Iran established diplomatic links on 15 March 1950. In addition to the Embassy in Tehran, India currently has two Consulates in Iran -Bandar Abbas and Zahedan. Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi visited Iran in April 1974 and Prime Minister Shri Morarji Desai visited in June 1977.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 introduced a new phase of engagement between India and Iran marked by exchange of high level visits of Indian and Iranian officials.

India-Iran economic and commercial ties have traditionally been buoyed by Indian import of Iranian crude oil.

India-Iran trade in 2010-11 was US$ 13.4 billion (Indian exports US$ 2.5 billion and imports US$ 10.9 billion).

India’s exports to Iran include rice, machinery and instruments, metals, primary and semi finished iron and steel, drugs/pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals, processed minerals, manmade yarn and fabrics, tea, organic/inorganic/agro chemicals, rubber manufactured products, etc.

India and Iran hold regular bilateral talks on economic and trade issues at the India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting (JCM).

The 16th JCM was held in New Delhi on July 8-9, 2010. It was co-chaired by Iran’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Dr. Seyed Shamseddin Hosseini and India’s External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna.

During the visit, Dr. Hosseini called on Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and met Minister of Finance Shri Pranab Mukherjee, and NSA Shri Shivshankar Menon.

Dr. Shamseddin Hosseini again visited India on 25 February 2011 during which he called on Prime Minister, Finance Minister and External Affairs Minister. The 17th JCM was held in Tehran in 2012 at the level of Foreign Ministers. Under the JCM mechanism, meetings of various Joint Working Groups have been held regularly.

During the 16th Joint Commission Meeting (JCM), 6 MoUs/agreements were signed: (i) Air Services Agreement; (ii) Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons; (iii) MoU on Cooperation in New & Renewable Energy; (iv) MoU on Cooperation in Small Scale Industry between National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) and Iranian Small Industries and Industrial Parks Organisation (ISIPO); (v) Programme of Cooperation on Science & Technology and (vi) MoU on Cooperation between Central Pulp and Paper Research Institute of India (CPPRI) and Gorgan University of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources (GUASNR).

There has been regular exchange of business delegations from both sides. India and Iran are also engaged in discussions on various projects in Iran, including the Chabahar Port and Rail Project.

Till now it has been believed that Iran and India have had cultural and civilizational links with each other from the time of Cyrus the Great and Darius. But many recent archaeological findings in north Khorassan, Sokhte (burnt city)and Jeeroft in Iran show that the civilizational relations between the Iranians and India have been so much older.

In the period of Darius and Xeroxes (Khashayar Shah), a group of the elephant riding soldiers of the army were Indians. Such kinds of relations have been clearly recorded in the periods of Ashkanians and the Sassanids as well.

In the period of the Gorkanis (the Moghals) or the Khorassanis the official language of the courts of India was Persian. It is for the same reason that about seventy per cent of the important documents, royal orders as well as the poetry and prose books still found in the museums and the government as well as private collections in India are in the Persian language.

Dr. Hekmat, the first ambassador of Iran in India has recorded a total of 80 important stone engravings in the important palaces and mausoleums of India. But the number of such engravings and inscription which are still found runs into thousands.

India and Iran maintain regular cultural and educational exchanges.

The cultural ties between Iran and India go back to the ancient times, to such an ancient time that determining its real date is impossible.

This antiquity of relations can be understood from the extensive similarities in the languages of the two countries. It is for the same reason that Sanskrit is called as the sister of the ancient Iranian languages. India and Iran have been familiar names for each other. The names of India ,Sind and Makran have been used in almost all historical& geghraphical and literature Persian books in the Shahnameh itself at least a hundred times. The same is true for other books as well.

A number of Indian scholars were teachers in the great university of the Gandi Shahpur of Persia and used to teach there.

In the period of Khusro Anushirvan, a number of Indian tales including the Panchtantra were translated into Iranian language by the name of Kalileh Wa Dameneh.

This work was later translated from the Persian language to Hindi. Other stories like the tales of Behram, story of the parrots and the tales of Sindbad were all translated from Hindi into Persian.

Iranians have played a distinguished role in the transmission of the heritage of India to the other languages. The famous Iranian scientist, Aburehan Albiruni, during his 16 years stay in India, presented his master piece named 'Tehqeeq Ma'al le Hind' to the world which is known as the Encyclopedia of India.

Masoodi was yet another Iranian scholar, who wrote many detailed reports about India. Moreover, the scientists like Koshiar and Khwarizmi learned the Indian mathematics and globalized this science.during the Gurkanid(mogul)the cultural exchange was so deeply that the official language became Persian. India and Iran maintained regular cultural exchanges even during the time of colonialism and also after independent India. Khorasanid dynasty(Tamurid,Babri,mugals) in India invited several Persian artist to their courts.

India has extremely been influenced by Persian art and architecture and Persian Sufis music.hundreds of Persian poets also were invited to India and some of the Indian kings themselves were composing Persian poem.also many Persian commander and minister or Nuvab were serving the Indian court one of them was Mirza Ghiyas Beg an important official the rule of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, and served as the chief treasurer, and he was given the title 'I'timād-ud-Daulah' which means 'Pillar of the State'. His daughter, Mehr Nūr Jahān married Jahāngīr in 1611, and his son Mirza Abul Hasan 'Asaf Khan' served as a general to Jahangir.

Mirza who was the father of Arjumand Banu Mumtaz Mahal,The wife of Shah Jahan, the Emperor of India also we can mention many others like safdar jung and Ashraf khan khorasani.

As per an MoU signed in January 2008 between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), New Delhi and the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) a weeklong Iranian cultural week was held in New Delhi and Mumbai in April-May 2008.

India also held its “Days of Culture” at the Niyavaran Palace in Tehran and Hafezia in Shiraz from May 10-17, 2011 which was attended by over twenty thousand people. The cultural festival was dedicated to the memory of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.

During 2011-12, various functions were organised through out Iran to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Tagore. Gurudev Tagore had visited Iran in 1934 and 1935 during which he wrote a poem on Iran.

There are about 8,000 Iranian students studying in India. India provides 67 scholarships every year to Iranian students under ITEC, ICCR, Colombo Plan and IOR-ARC schemes.

India over the years has emerged as one of the favourite tourist destinations for Iranian tourists and every year around 40,000 Iranians visit India for various purposes.