HomePolitics and Current AffairsWhy India-Iran relation has entered into a strategic zone?

Why India-Iran relation has entered into a strategic zone?

With action shifting to west Asia, India has caught in a precarious situation. It has to balance between both Iran and US, which are adversaries to each other

This visit of external affairs minister Jaishankar in the middle of the escalating tension in West Asia looks strategic, how things would show up in this multi-polar world 

Well, Tehran says it wishes to completely bypass in the affairs of the region. This statement is significant in the backdrop of the fact that Iranian missiles struck two bases of the Balochi terror group Jaish ul-Adl in Pakistan on yesterday. This can't be a coincidence at a time when 's foreign minister S Jaishankar is on his Iran visit.

Meanwhile, India and Iran have reached a final agreement on India's first foreign port project, Chahbahar Port. This port is situated in the Sistan-Baluchistan province in the south-eastern part of Iran. This port on the Gulf of Oman would be strategically significant for India as the connectivity it offers to West Asia, the Suez Canal and Africa would make sure Pakistan does not come in the way. More so because Afghanistan is another partner in the Chabahar project, and the Taliban regime has problems with Pakistan too while Indiawishes to reach Afghanistan through Chabahar as well. It is 800 km closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan's Karachi port.

Finally, recall the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor, the agreement for which was reached between all stakeholders during the G20 Summit in India. The Chabaharport will enhance India's presence in the region, as it is on the way to the IMEC corridor. Once Chabahar is complete, India can offer 30% cheaper imports than the Mediterranean-Suez route. Moreover, natural gas from Central Asia can be exported to India via the Chahbahar port.

We also conduct rescue operations for people stranded in the Middle East quite often. The Chabahar port can turn into a base for such rescue operations.

India-Iran are going slow on this diplomatic relationship. They had joined hands to develop Chabhar port two decades back. But they are still in the discussion mode. On the other hand China and Pakistan play it fast. They have finished their Gwadar project and made it fully functional

This time it seems we will make it. Before Jaishankar'smeeting with Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash, the groundwork was already done when on 23 November last year, Indian foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra was in Tehran to co-chair a meeting of India–Iran Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) along with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ali Bagheri Kani.

Now I explain why it took so long. Even before 2003, it was an Iranian plan to begin with in 1973. But then, the Islamic revolution in 1979 ended the Shah regime and the project got shelved.

Then, during the final year of the Vajpayee rule, Iran was still facing sanctions by the US.

In the past 20 years, Iran did not stop developing the port though. It did complete 10 stages of the port. The port handled 2.1 million tons of cargo in 2015, which was planned to be upgraded to handle 8.5 million tons by 2016, and to 86 million tons in the future, but Iran lacks money for further investment in the project as well as goodwill in geopolitics. India can help it tide over these issues.

Indian Navy has recently rescued a vessel from pirates in the region. Is it any indication that India wants to have the same  assertion in this region during days of Rajeev Gandhi when  Indian Navy went to  save the Maldives from rebels and pirates. 

Yes, we are but in a more carefully calibrated way. We are no longer sending peace-keeping forces to foreign lands without the UN approval, unlike what we had done in Sri Lanka under Rajiv Gandhi.

The recent incident you're referring to was different. On 5 January, five or six armed pirates had attempted to hijack the Liberian-flagged vessel. Indian Navy commandos boarded the attacked vessel from a warship to ensure the safety and rescue of the crew members, and all 21 Indians on board were rescued. This was unlike sending unwelcome troops to another country.

India has found itself in a tricky situation. It has to keep up with both US and Iran who are considered adversaries of each other. India needs to have good relationship with both.

This is a pertinent question. Of the part of development of the Chabahar port I explained earlier, only 10% of the port's 8.5 million-ton total capacity could be utilised in 2019 because the US imposed sanctions anew.

This is a position from where India needs to extricate the US. When the West is facing a barrage of Islamic terror attacks, India must make the Americans appreciate the fact that it is stupid to be averse to both Sunnis and Shiahs. Shiahs are a minority within the Muslim and by throwing your weight behind them, you not only champion minority rights but also reject the allegation that you are Islamophobic.

Besides, these divisions on the basis of religion are fast turning into a thing of the past. If arch enemies like Saudi Arabia and Israel are drawing closer to each other, there is no reason why the US and Iran can't. Importantly, as in the case of the hoax of weapons of mass destruction, which was used to eliminate Saddam Hussein of Iraq, the West does not have proof Iran is developing nuclear weapons or other WMDS. If the US and Iran resolve their differences, it will make life lot easier for the whole world in general and India in particular. Remember that even when we are importing gas from Russia, a bulk of our fossil fuels still come from the Middle East, and since India cannot buy from Iran, the Arab countries extract a higher price from us.

Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasguptahttps://swadharma.in
Surajit Dasgupta began his career as a banker with Citibank and then switched to journalism. He has worked with The Statesman, The Pioneer, Swarajya, Hindusthan Samachar, MyNation, etc and established his own media houses Sirf News and Swadharma. His professional career began in 1993. He is a mathematician by training and has acute interest in science and technology, linguistics and history. He is also a Sangeet Visharad.
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