India Iran Relationship

Misguided Effort???

India Iran Relationship
India Iran Relationship

Let us first try to understand what we mean by misguided efforts here. In the arena of international politics, every country makes there moves primarily to secure their own domestic concerns.


Are we on the right track in our relationship with Iran??? Given the aggressive posturing of China, are we confident that we are charting the right course of action??? Iran is known to give primacy to only its own interest, which cannot be called wrong in present atmosphere of international politics, in this environment, are we making steady progress in securing our economic and strategic interests???

Gone are the days of Nehruvian Politics, when the ideals and ethicality of the issues primarily drove the stands of countries internationally. To be very honest, these Nehruvian ideals were never firmly accepted in this arena. Nehru understood this during his own life-time as well, especially once India was attacked by its perceived soul-mate the Peoples Republic of China. In fact this Nehruvian policy was vehemently criticized by the then US president John F. Kennedy when the Indian delegation approached him for help, in 1962. [1]

In this atmosphere, making moves which do not lead you towards the intended results or being too slow in pace in executing the necessary moves could easily turn the table against you and may render you vulnerable, especially when your intentions are known to clash with many of the hegemons of the present world order.

Now let us look into the relationship between India and Iran through the prism of international politics. For this purpose, we would take into consideration three scenarios, these are:-

Scenario 1

Presently Iran is the second largest source of crude oil to India, accounting for nearly 40% of its domestic requirement. If we recall the history of the recent past, in 2008-09, even while Iran was reeling under economic sanctions by the west, India increased its import of crude oil from Iran. In fact, it was this increase in quota of import which made Iran the second largest source of crude import for India. However, in the recent past India has reduced this quota for Iran to a considerable level (nearly by 1/5th). Though it is still the second largest source but this decrease in quota has caused considerable woos for the already bleeding Iranian economy. In fact this step has also caused a near immediate retaliation in the form of Iran reducing the time-credit it used to provide to India from 90 days to 60 days.

Scenario 2

Back in 2012, the overseas arm of ONGC, ie. ONGC Videsh Ltd made a discovery of natural gas in the Farzad B Gas Block. The total potential of the block is around 21.7 billion cubic feet out of which nearly 60% is recoverable. However, the slow progress in negotiations with ONGC Videsh LTD, especially disappointed over its proposed $3billion investment figure and the time frame given to develop the block, which was further complicated with India announcing the reduction in quota of import from Iran, Iran started negotiations with Gazprom of Russia to develop this gas block and a Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed between National Iranian Oil Company and Gazprom three months back.

Scenario 3

The negotiations for developing Chabahar port was started nearly a decade back. Chabahar as a port is considered extremely important for India to access the Central Asian markets. Given a complete blockade by Pakistan in transporting Indian goods across its territory to Afghanistan and beyond, India needed an entry-port for its goods to reach Afghanistan and Central Asia. Indian fast-moving-consumer-goods sector is making steady progress and so is its manufacturing sector. Very soon India will need newer markets. Till date Central Asian markets have been out of bound for India and majority of the world. The prospect of this market is also considerable. Given this, India planned to create a multi-modal transport corridor from India to Central Asia via Chabahar port of Iran. Towards achieving this goal India started negotiations to invest in developing the Chabahar Post in the Sistan-Balochistan province of Iran, developing the Chabahar-Zahedan rail-route along with Chabahar-Milak-Zaranj-Delaram highway connecting Chabahar in Iran with Delaram in Afghanistan. However, it is significant that the trilateral agreement for the transport corridor for goods and services from India to Afghanistan through Iran got signed as late as last year in May 2016. India has commited to pay $500 million in developing the Chabahar port and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) of India has already built the Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan. India intends to have certain exclusivity in respect to Chabahar in the same lines as Russia enjoys in case of Bandar Abbas.

By the way, by this time Pakistan has given the control of China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) completely to China and China has invested $46 Billion. Now China is trying to ensure the economic viability of the project. They have also identified Chabahar as a potential reason for failure of the CPEC, to deal with it they have invited Iran to participate in the CPEC and draw benefits for Iran.

As an outreach to facilitate the Chinese initiative, last year only, the provincial Chief Minister of Balochistan, Pakistan invited his counter-part in Iran, the provincial gorvernor of Sistan-Balochistan province and the two announced the two cities of Gwadar and Chabahar as sister cities. Steps have been announced to jointly develop the two cities and especially infrastructure projects are being planned to link the two cities. These initiatives took place just before the Prime Minister of India’s visit to Iran. As a consequence, we saw Iran denying any exclusive rights of Chabahar to India. Also there is a fear with the deteriorating internal security situation in Afghanistan and the Taliban gaining lost grounds that these mercenaries on the order of their Pakistani pay masters may also create head-ache for Indian trade and commerce in Afghanistan.

Even the visit of the Indian Prime Minister 2 years back to Iran could be at best called a corrective step and the vigour and zeal witnessed in case any other foreign visit of the Prime Minister of India was practically absent.

Given these developments, one truly gets doubtful about the direction towards which the efforts taken by the Government of India is taking us. As we can see either the steps taken by them are contradictory to one another or are proving to be counter-productive in many cases. Similarly, the process for development of the Chabahar port has taken too long. In fact it won’t be wrong if we say that whatever the achievements India made in case of Chabahar is too little too late.



[1] Source: One life is not enough by K. Natwar Singh

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Also read:-

India-Afghanistan Relations



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