INDIA TO RESET TIES WITH IRAN
Ties with Iran has seen a lot of ups & downs.
Iran & India did not have the best of relations before the Revolution that ousted the Shah of Iran. Post the takeover of Iran by the Ayatollahs, relations went through a see-saw. Till a few years back, Iran was India’s top oil supplier. However, with US sanctions imposed on Iran for pursuing a nuclear programme, India was forced to curtail its imports from Iran & payments for oil had to be routed through Turkey. Around the same time, India voted against Iran’s nuclear programme at the IAEA, much to Iran’s displeasure. However, the picture today seems to be getting rosier by the day. June 30 is the deadline for resolving the nuclear deal between Iran & the Security Council P5 + Gemany. Failure to seal this deal would create further uncertainty regarding the continuance of international sanctions. India, on its part, has decided to scale up its relations regardless of the outcome on June 30. Iran is a critical country as far as India’s strategic objectives are concerned.
For one, its Shia dominated in an otherwise Sunni dominated cregion. Its strategic location at the Straits of Hormuz gives it a unique advantage.Iran can act as an entrepot for India’s trade with the Central Asian nations & Russia. One major development which would be a game changer is the development of Chabahar port by India. This deep water port can be a vital link for oil exports from Iran as also natural gas transportation from Central Asia, particularly Turkmenistan to India. Chabahar can also act as a catalyst for Afghanstan’s exports to India. Similarly India’s diesel exports to Iran and merchandise to Afghanistan & Central Asia can be routed through Chabahar. Pakistan has handed over Gwadar port to China & Chabahar can act as India’s answer to Gwadar. There was a move to lay a pipeline linking Iran & India through Pakistan. However due to security concerns this proposal was shot down. However, there is a move to lay an under sea pipeline linking Iran & India and this port could act as a conduit. Indian assets in Afghanistan can be monitored from the Iranian side given the warmth in our ties. Iran & India can work jointly to curb terrorism in the region. They have collaborated earlier by supporting the Ahmed Shah Mahsud’s Northern Alliance in its fight against Taliban in Afghanistan. Today the Taliban seem to be gaining ground in Afghanistan again & strong ties with Iran would certainly help India in its battle against the Taliban. There is another existential threat from ISIS in Middle East. Here again Teheran would be useful for India. Massive reconstruction and infrastructure projects are in the pipeline & Indian companies stand to gain from these projects. India has already undertaken road projects & more are underway.
One cautionary note here is Saudi Arabia’s outlook on closer Indo-Iran ties. Saudi Arabia has consistently favoured Pakistan & is one of Pakistan’s biggest donors. Sunni Saudi Arabia is at complete loggerheads with Shia Iran & its clear manifestation is the Yemen imbroglio where Iran supports the Shiite Houthi rebels against a Sunni Govt supported by the Saudis. Continuous bombardment by Saudis of Houti strongholds has left Yemen in shambles. Saudi Arabia is one of India’s largest oil suppliers, is a primary force in the Middle East who cannot be ignored & home to a large number of Indians. In such a scenario, India would have to tactfully handle this tightrope situation. Similarly Israel continues to be Iran’s principal enemy & India has upgraded its ties with Tel Aviv. Here again we are dealing with two arch enemies wherein both are crucial to India’s goals & aspirations. A more daunting tight rope walking required.
India has shown maturity & wisdom at various international fora & earned goodwill around the world. Therefore, our foreign policy establishment should take up this challenge & deliver satisfactory results.
By :- #CB