Republics: A Sovereign Democratic & An Islamic!
India has decided to bring forth in reckoning 70 years of bilateral relations with Iran, ignoring the ire of the US! After holding talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif a couple of days ago in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister of India Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar announced that the two friendly nations would organise various events to mark the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between them…
In the presence of Dr Jaishankar, the visiting Iranian Minister said that Tehran and New Delhi would jointly organise those events. According to Zarif, the Governments of two countries would soon finalise the programmes. He further said that Iran and India have decided to boost trade ties in the coming days, apart from taking joint steps in order to stabilise the political situation in West Asia. Zarif told the local media that India agreed to back Iran’s moves to ensure peace in the region.
Javad Zarif (L) with Dr S Jaishankar (R)
Meanwhile, some foreign policy experts are of the opinion that India has taken a huge risk by inviting the Iranian Minister to New Delhi at a time, when the relation between Iran and the US has touched a new low. However, they have also remarked that the Narendra Modi Government has no other option, other than maintaining close ties with Iran, especially after setting up the Chabahar Port. The port will certainly help the South Asian nation boost trade ties with the Central Asia. It is important for India, as well, to strengthen strategic and business ties with the US. Therefore, the Indian diplomacy is facing a real challenge as on date!
The situation deteriorated further in West Asia after the death of Iran’s Shadow Commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone attack on January 3, 2020 near the Baghdad International Airport. Anindyajyoti Majumdar, the Professor of International Relations at Jadavpur University (Kolkata, India), has stated that India has strengthened ties with the West, as well as with the US, in recent times. At the same time, New Delhi plans to boost relations with Tehran and other West Asian nations. Even, India co-operates with both Pentagon and Tehran on an important sector, like defence! It is, hence, India is worried about the current situation in West Asia, as further deterioration of US-Iran relations could harm New Delhi’s interests. Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar has already spoken to Zarif and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, regarding this issue.
A Chinese Checker?
If one takes stock of the recent happenings in the world, the person would easily understand that it is China that has brought India and the US closer to one another. New Delhi and Washington have decided to maintain close ties in order to serve their common diplomatic interests! China’s rise as an economic and military giant has prompted the US to boost ties with many Asian countries, including India. The Donald Trump Administration also plans to form a League with some of the democratic nations to counter China’s rise. The US’ initiatives have helped India get new friends in the West, and boost its Hi-Tech business! Co-operation in the exchange of Technology, the use of Nuclear Power, and also in Space Research have become possible with the European nations. India had to face initial difficulties for not signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, the friendship with the US has helped India overcome those difficulties! Now, India gets access to the modern nuclear technologies through a different channel.
Port At Chabahar & Portability
Iran faces a completely different situation. Although Tehran has become a nuclear power, and self-sufficient in defence sector, the conditions of the NPT have started creating troubles for the Hassan Rouhani Government in Tehran! The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had imposed sanctions on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme on the basis of a joint recommendation by the Western nations. In fact, India had to back the joint move against Iran in order to save its ties with the US. Also, India did not condemn President Trump’s decision to impose economic sanctions on Iran! Moreover, India held a meeting with Saudi Arabia, popularly known as Iran’s arch rival in West Asia, in order to ensure a steady supply of petroleum products. As expected, the top political leadership in Tehran thought that India could not be a trusted friend, as it bowed to US pressure! However, the fact of the matter is that India has never underestimated Iran… it has just become a victim of Global Geopolitics…
Indian PM Modi (L) with Iranian President Rouhani (R)
One should not forget that India had invested heavily to set up the Chabahar Port in Iran mainly to send trade materials to Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries, bypassing Pakistan. India also developed the road transport system near the port to meet its own business interests. It became necessary for India to use the Iranian port after China helped Pakistan in modernising the Gwadar Port. So, New Delhi has always given a special importance to Tehran while preparing its foreign policies.
The Chabahar Port
Friends, Foes & Foreign Policies!
In Diplomacy, there is nothing called Eternal Friendship or Eternal Enemy… all these are relative issues that depend on situation that exists, then. Each and every country wants to serve its own interests… that is the only constant. One has to prepare its foreign policies so that they could serve its interests. Once, India – along with Egypt and erstwhile Yugoslavia – had led the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in an attempt to safeguard its Sovereignty as an Independent Nation. Since the end of Cold War Era, the world has become multi-polar, and the NAM has slowly lost its relevance. In the multi-polar world, a country cannot do anything in case a war breaks out between two friendly nations. This time, the Iran issue puts India under tremendous pressure… and, it was very much expected.
The Acid Test!
The time has come for the Indian foreign policy to overcome this tough challenge. New Delhi should be aware of the fact that its current foreign policy will determine its future relations with both Iran and the US. It is really difficult for India to balance its ties with the two belligerent nations, but New Delhi would have to maintain an equidistant or to stay neutral. Of course, the Global Community could isolate India for taking such a stand… but, the Modi Government has few other options!
There are other aspects, too. China believes that every challenge brings a new opportunity! So, it would be better for India to try to help resolve the ongoing US-Iran crisis from a neutral point of view. India should take advantage of its relations with both the parties. As New Delhi still follows a centrist path, it could bridge the gap between Tehran and Washington.
Iranian Ambassador to New Delhi Ali Chegeni recently said that his country would welcome any peace initiative by India for easing its tensions with the US. Hours after Iran launched missile strikes against two US military bases in Iraq in retaliation to the killing of its top Commander General Soleimani, the envoy stressed: “India usually plays very good role in maintaining peace in the world. At the same time, India belongs to this region. We welcome all initiatives from all countries, especially India, as a good friend for us, to not allow escalation (of tensions).”
US President Trump, too, hinted that he would try to resolve the crisis through peaceful negotiation! According to experts, the president might not take another risk ahead of the Presidential Elections to be held at the end of this year. As both the parties are interested in resolving the crisis with the help of a Third Party, it is a golden opportunity for India to play a positive role in ensuring peace in West Asia. Such a move will certainly help India emerge as a Global Pace-maker in the coming years…
Now, the million-dollar question is: Whether India is ready to play that role…
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