Ambassador lauds services to Indian nationals in Qom amid COVID-19

April 22, 2020 - 18:14

TEHRAN - The Indian ambassador to Iran has lauded the performance of the Iranian Foreign Ministry as well as the local offices of the health and interior ministries for taking care of the Indian nationals in the shrine city of Qom.

According to Ambassador Gaddam Dharmendra, Indian nationals in Qom – both pilgrims and theology students- that some of them have contracted the coronavirus disease, have received necessary services, including medical care. 

“We appreciate the efforts and invaluable support of the Ministry of Health office in Qom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Dharmendra tells the Tehran Times.

According to the ambassador, Qom’s governor-general has said services provided to foreign nationals in Qom have won the praise of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 outbreak in-person interview with the Indian envoy was not possible.

The following are the comments Tehran Times got from our querries to the office of Ambassador Dharmendra: 

Evacuation of Indian students and pilgrims from Qom:

* More than 1,100 Indians have returned to India in the month of March. These include around 800 pilgrims who were in Qom and hail from the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir and the state of Maharashtra; some 300 students primarily from the UT of J&K also returned to India. 

* Currently, there are around 5,000 Indian nationals who are staying in Iran. Many of them are on long term stay and are pursuing their religious studies in Qom and Mashad. There are also some 1,000 fishermen and some 150 seafarers mainly in the provinces of Hormuzgan and Bushehr. 

* As regards, those individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, they are recovering in a quarantine facility set up in Qom with the support of the Qom’s Governor General’s office and the Qom authorities. 

Indian envoy’s meeting with Qom Governor-General:

* Ambassador Gaddam Dharmendra visited Qom on 5th April and paid a courtesy call on Governor-General Bahram Sarmast. Ambassador Gaddam briefed the governor-general about Indian pilgrims in Qom and assured of their early evacuation. India is currently under a nationwide lockdown and all commercial international air flights have been suspended. 

The India-Iran Rupee special purpose payments mechanism to finance bilateral trade continues to be operative.* Governor-General Sarmast briefed the Ambassador about the measures being taken by Iranian authorities, including setting up facilities to accommodate Indian pilgrims in Qom, arranging of visits by Iranian doctors to check the pilgrims and liaison with local hospitals to admit the serious cases. Governor-General Sarmast also informed that the World Health Organization (WHO) had praised the approach of the Qom administration towards foreign nationals.

* As of now, there are about 340 Indian nationals in Qom. India does not wish to be a burden on Iran and the Embassy is, therefore, meeting all expenditures towards the cost of boarding and lodging of the pilgrims. We appreciate the efforts and invaluable support of the Ministry of Health office in Qom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We also thank the DG of Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs in Qom province for his coordination between various offices and helping in the evacuation of pilgrims to India.

Chabahar Port and INSTC:
* In a globalized and inter-connected world, connectivity paradigms are assuming great salience. India and Iran have committed to deepen bilateral cooperation on connectivity projects. The Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar and the Chabahar-Zahedan rail line are two such projects on which there is a high-level commitment to deepen bilateral cooperation. This was reiterated most recently during a meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Hassan Rouhani in New York in September last year on the sidelines of the annual United Nation’s General Assembly sessions.  

* India and Iran are also working together within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor and with other INSTC member countries. India has proposed to the INSTC Secretariat the establishment of a Joint Venture “Multimodal Transport Corporation”. India had also called for the inclusion of Chabahar port in the INSTC.

* The Shahid Beheshti port has already handled 6000 TEUs and 800,000 tons of bulk cargo till date. Iran has added Shahid Beheshti port to the Chabahar Free Zone which is expected to further increase traffic. For its part, India has offered discounts to shippers who utilize the Shahid Beheshti port for their cargo.

* There have been some challenges in procuring equipment due to the ongoing COVID global pandemic crisis. However, we are proceeding ahead with placing orders for port handling equipment. 

India-Iran bilateral trade:

* The India-Iran Rupee special purpose payments mechanism to finance bilateral trade continues to be operative.

* Overall, the potential for bilateral trade remains bright and businesses in both countries are optimistic and confident of benefiting from each other’s advantages. This is not withstanding the challenges posed by the current difficulties in expanding our trade basket. The commercial chambers in both countries are coordinating on these issues.

The potential for bilateral trade remains bright and businesses in both countries are optimistic and confident of benefiting from each other’s advantages.* The major Indian exports to Iran are rice and other cereals, tea, Active Pharma Ingredients (API), animal fodder, inorganic and organic chemicals, and electrical machinery. There is enormous potential to expand trade to include other commodities and items for export to Iran viz. Paper and paper products, textiles, engineering goods, rubber and articles, etc.

* The major Iranian non-oil exports to India, until 2018, are organic chemicals, fertilizers, plastic and its articles. Once again, there is substantial potential to increase exports to India of fruits, dry fruits, saffron (to cater to the large Indian sweets market), gypsum, quicklime for cement industry, and raw hides and skins for leather industry.

* India-Iran bilateral trade has shown a positive trend in year 2018-19, compared to the previous year. Subsequent to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and lifting of sanctions, India-Iran bilateral trade in 2016-17 was $12.88 billion, which was an increase of about one percent, compared to 2015-16. But, the bilateral trade was $13.76 billion in 2017-18, an increase of 23 percent. The trend continued in 2018-19 when bilateral trade increased to $17.03 billion, an increase of 10.42 percent, despite the announcement of U.S. sanctions in 2018.

Culture:

India and Iran are age-old civilizations, with a shared history that is rich in arts and culture. In recognition of their rich history, both countries have established an institutional framework (governmental/private) to support a diverse range of cultural activities. These include theatre; traditional and folk music; film industry; poetry and literature; fine arts including painting, graphics, calligraphy, book illustration, caricature art, etc. These are promoted through structural support viz. Institutes, auditorium, art galleries museums, display parks. Periodic competitions and awards, and expert training centers are other forms of deepening bilateral cooperation. Anthropologically connected crafts of weaving (Carpets, qilims, fabric) and embroidery/needlework; metal artwork, leather, and woodcrafts; and traditional practice to modern technologically developed ceramic artwork are flourishing. Craft museums, Anthropological Museums are found in all major cities of Iran.

Anthropological activities are aimed at arriving at a better appreciation and understanding of social customs, history, and social and cultural processes. The scope is vast in both countries. Specifically, Iran has well preserved prehistoric sites in Zargos, Hamedan, Lorestan, Sistan (eg. Sialk, Susa, Elam). Several anthropological museums in all major cities act as important conservatories.

Commonalities between India and Iran:

People to people contact is an important dimension of bilateral ties. India has a vast Muslim population and has the third-largest Muslim population in the world. It also shares unique religious observations of Shia sect with Iran (Eid, Muharram with Taziyas, Ramadan) which provide yet another dimension of ties between our two countries.  Besides, there are cultural festivities common to both our people's viz. Nowrooz, Nature Day, and Shab-i-yalda in Iran which has parallels in Indian Chaitra Navratra, Basant Panchami, and Lohri, respectively. The content of celebration, feasting, and social etiquette too has much in common.

Ways to interact:

The cultural activities can be better understood through observation/experience, available at Museums at Palaces and Monuments of historic period brings face to face with the living culture. Living and practiced culture of Iran derives from its roots (in Shahnameh; Achaemenid and Sassanian glory; in Safavid culture). Several opportunities to interact with Iranian culture are available each day in events like seminars, exhibitions, talks, fairs held regularly in all cities.

Favorite subjects:

Indo-Iranian shared heritage or cultural parallels and similarities in field of art, philosophy, literature and architecture. 

65 Indian workers at Kaveh steel plant, Ardestan:

65 Indian workers have been employed at the Kaveh steel plant, Ardestan since last year. They are understood to be working in setting up the steel plant as well as a power plant. The two plants are believed to be nearing completion. The Embassy has been in touch with the workers through its helplines and been advising them to follow health protocols amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran. We have been informed that a Tehran-based owner of the two plants has also been taking care of their needs.

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