Tehran: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said he had a “very fruitful” meeting with his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Amir Hatami and discussed ways to bolster bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including the situation in Afghanistan.

Singh reached Tehran from Moscow on Saturday on a transit halt after concluding his three-day visit to Russia where he attended a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers. He also held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Russia, China and the Central Asian countries.

“Had a very fruitful meeting with Iranian defence minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami in Tehran. We discussed regional security issues including Afghanistan and the issues of bilateral cooperation,” he said in a tweet.

“Both the Defence Ministers discussed ways to take forward bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues, including peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Singh’s office said in a separate tweet on the meeting held on Saturday at the request of the Iranian Defence Minister.

The meeting between the two ministers took place in a “cordial and warm atmosphere”, it said, adding that the leaders emphasised upon the age-old cultural, linguistic and civilisational ties between India and Iran.

Singh’s visit to Iran is considered to be significant as it came a day after he voiced India’s deep concern about the situation in the Persian Gulf and called upon the countries in the region to resolve their differences through dialogue based on mutual respect.

A series of incidents in the Persian Gulf involving Iran, the US and the UAE in recent weeks have flared up tension in the region.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation in the Persian Gulf,” Singh had said in his address at a meeting of the SCO in Moscow on Friday.

“We call upon countries in the region — all of which are dear and friendly to India, to resolve differences by dialogue based on mutual respect, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of each other,” he said in his address at the combined meeting of Defence Ministers of the SCO, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Commonwealth of Independent States member states.

Last month, Iranian navy briefly seized control of a Liberian-flagged oil tanker in what the US said were international waters near the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman to the south and the Arabian Sea beyond.

Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the US, which has already imposed crippling sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme, tries to strangle its economy.

India-Iran commercial ties were traditionally dominated by Indian import of Iranian crude oil. In 2018-19 India imported $12.11 billion worth of crude oil from Iran.

However, following the end of the Significant Reduction Exemption (SRE) period on May 2, 2019, India has suspended importing crude from Iran, according to the Indian Embassy here.

The US had asked countries, including India, to cut oil imports from Iran down to “zero” by November 6, 2019, or face sanctions.

The bilateral trade during 2019-20 was $4.77 billion, a decrease of 71.99 per cent as compared to the trade of $17.03 billion 2018-19. What is significant is that Indian exports to Iran between 2011-12 and 2019-20 have grown by 45.60 per cent, according to the website of the mission.

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