Daily Editorial Analysis for 17th June 2022

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India and Iran reaffirms resolve to strengthen ties

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian’s three-day visit to India, last week, was the first ministerial-level visit from Iran since Ebrahim Raisi assumed the Iranian presidency in August last year.

India-Iran relations:

• The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran after Tehran withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 may have virtually destroyed India-Iran trade, especially India’s energy imports from Iran, but the geopolitical logic underpinning relations between the two countries remains firm.
• There is a strong historical root between India and Iran. The two countries share several similar features in their culture, language and traditions. There always has been a trade route, people to people link open from the Persian Gulf to India.
• The “Tehran Declaration” signed during former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Iran affirmed the shared vision of the two countries for an “equitable, pluralistic and co-operative international order”.
• It recognised then Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s vision of a “dialogue among civilisations” as a paradigm of international relations based on principles of tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity.
• Advancing the standing in global order: Two decades later, as India strengthens new partnerships within its regional vision centred on the Indo-Pacific, both countries remain driven by the goals of advancing their standing at the regional and global level.
• Both are keen to project themselves as independent strategic actors determined to play a role in shaping a new multipolar order in their shared Eurasian neighbourhood and also at the global level.
Why Iran is important for India?
• Dealing with Pakistan: Iran is a Shia dominated country and has always regarded the Sunni dominated neighboring Pakistan warily and has kept them at bay .Good relations between India and Iran can help India in isolating Pakistan across its diplomatic borders.
• Iran’s geographic location: Iran’s geographic location can prove to be very advantageous for India when it seeks the help of Iran.
• Energy Security: Iran is among the world’s largest suppliers of oil and natural gas. With environmental concerns rising among common man. Public transports are converting to compressed natural gas in order to provide a cleaner environment. It stands to reason that natural gas will soon become very important displacing the fossil fuel from its totem pole, adding to it is the recent unrest in Iraq, throwing questions about their supply and their ability to sustain an uninterrupted production of crude oil to Indian markets .All these factors make Iran an invaluable supplier of fuels.
• Accessing Afghanistan: India has been facing the problem of doing business or humanitarian work in Afghanistan thanks to the overt interference of hostile neighboring country; Chabahar route solves the access issue.Iran remains important to India both for its geopolitical location as well as from economic point. All efforts must be made to maintain a mutually beneficial tie between the two countries.
Strategic Importance
o India is involved in the construction of a 560 mile long railway linking the Iranian port with the iron ore mines of Afghanistan. This venture is linked to a larger geopolitical and economic strategy.
o The railway link when completed can provide a boost in the arms for India in terms of strategic benefits. The completion of the track will increase the leverage in Afghanistan and Central Asian region as India can bypass Pakistan completely. Indian companies can explore the mineral wealth of Afghanistan, which is estimated at a staggering $3 trillion.
o A potential future benefit would be India’s greater involvement in the central Asian region, something that India is unable to do now as it is sandwiched between Pakistan and China. The mineral wealth could go a long way in meeting the energy security for India.
o The strategic importance of Chabahar port for India cannot be emphasized enough. Chabahar is the natural gateway to India into Afghanistan and central Asia .Iran has heavily invested in Chabahar by establishing rail connectivity with Afghanistan as well as expanding the port of Chabahar. Since Chabahar lies just 1000 Kilometers of Kandla, Gujarat, a direct shipping route can be opened between India and Chabahar.

Significance of Iran for India
• Geopolitical logic in relations: The sanctions imposed by the US on Iran after it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 may have virtually destroyed India-Iran trade, especially India’s energy imports from Iran, but the geopolitical logic underpinning relations between the two countries remains firm.
• Land bridge to Central Asia and Eurasia: Iran has sought to leverage its crossroad geographical location straddling the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, India has come to see it as its land bridge to Central Asia and Eurasia.
• INSTC: Despite the difficulties posed by decades of American sanctions, Iran has, along with India, Russia and a few other countries in the Eurasian region, continued to work on the multi-modal International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
• During Raisi’s visit to Moscow, the two sides had pledged to redouble their efforts to build the railway line between Iran’s Caspian port of Rasht and Astara on the Iran-Azerbaijan border.
• Alternative Caspian Sea Route: The activation of an alternative Caspian Sea route speaks volumes about the positive outlook of Iran, India and Russia on this corridor despite a variety of geopolitical challenges.
• Iran’s Chabahar port, where India is developing two berths that it will lease for commercial operations for 10 years, is also a story of perseverance in the ties between the two countries.
Issues in India-Iran ties
• India’s relations with Saudi Arabia, US and Israel: Growing Saudi-India-US-Israel relations have irked Iran.
• In retaliation, Iran, for the first time, has linked the plight of Muslims in Gaza, Yemen, and Bahrain, with those in Kashmir
• Iran-Pak-China ties: Warming Iran-Pak-China ties have annoyed India.
• Sluggish Chabahar port development: Slow Chabahar port development has annoyed Iran.
Integrating Chabahar port into INSTC
• During consultations with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, Abdollahian brought up the slow pace of the port’s development.
• Tehran has maintained that Chabahar does not seek to rival Pakistan’s Gwadar port being developed by China.
• Countering Pakistan: Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Pakistan is leading the efforts to link Central Asia with Karachi through a trans-Afghan railway.
• Integration with INSTC: Delhi is pushing for integrating Chabahar into the 13-nation INSTC.
• Joint working group on Chabahar: The maiden India-Central Asia summit, held in January, agreed on creating a Joint Working Group on Chabahar.


While the revival of the nuclear deal could give a fillip to India’s economic ties with Iran, India’s interests in continental Asia will be served well by heeding to the calls for developing a long-term roadmap for bilateral relations.

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