Indo Iranian Relations : India's Iran dilemma

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by Singh, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. Singh

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    India's Iran Dilemma



    India Today recently reported that a high-level Indian delegation quietly signed a series of new infrastructure deals in Tehran in late November 2011. The big ticket item was a new railway from Iran's Chah Bahar port, which India also promised to help upgrade, to the Hajigak region of eastern Afghanistan, where Indian firms have interests in iron ore.



    At first glance, this deal looks motivated by business rather than political imperatives. But India Today also quoted a former Indian diplomat, MK Bhadrakumar, who suggested it signalled something more. India Today paraphrases Bhadrakumar as saying that the deal is a product of a new and 'broad strategic understanding with Iran' intended to challenge the US-led containment of that country.

    If Bhadrakumar is correct, India is heading for a confrontation with its American strategic partner, not to mention India's biggest high-tech arms supplier, Israel. But is he right?

    India certainly finds itself in a difficult position over Iran, with which it has deep and enduring links. It is the Islamic Republic's third biggest customer for oil after China and Japan. India's cultural links with the Persian world are also deep, and many Indian Muslims are Shiite coreligionists. The two also have common geopolitical interests, not least in limiting Pakistani ambitions in Afghanistan.

    India's response to Iran's nuclear program has been muted. On the one hand, it has consistently voted in favour of sanctions at the UN over the past decade. On the other, it has been conspicuously quiet about recent moves to target Iran's oil exports to put further pressure on the regime. While China, Japan and South Korea, as well as the European Union, have all had high-profile dialogues with the US on this issue, India has sat on the sidelines.

    Does this silence signal an intention by India to undermine America's containment of Iran, as Mr Bhadrakumar suggested to India Today?

    Some Indian commentators would no doubt like an opportunity to teach the US a lesson. Standing up to Washington on Iran, they imply, would show the Americans that India is not to be taken for granted. For these analysts, in other words, the Iran issue is a test of India's 'strategic autonomy'.

    The more likely explanation is more prosaic: New Delhi is quiet because it is hoping the storm will blow over before it has to make any difficult decisions.

    India's dilemma is a very serious one. On the one hand, cutting off oil supplies from Iran and pushing up fuel prices will slow an already weakening economy even further. On the other, letting Iran acquire a weapon with which to threaten American and Israeli interests, not to mention the four million Indian citizens working in the Gulf, is also an unhappy prospect.

    India is not the only state in a difficult position on Iran, but which way it decides to move will be significant in signaling how the crisis over Iran's nuclear program will be resolved. India's elite know their Iranian counterparts well. President Ahmadinejad briefly visited New Delhi in March 2011; an invitation has been extended for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reciprocate, following a mission to Tehran by the Indian Foreign Secretary last July. There are, in other words, few countries better positioned than India to read Iranian intentions.


    India's Iran dilemma
     
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  3. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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  4. Singh

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    India seeks to counter the Sino-Pak alliance through deals with Kabul and Tehran

    India Seeks To Counter The Sino-Pak Alliance Through Deals With Kabul And Tehran


    On November 26, an Indian delegation landed in Iran on a hush-hush visit to hold discussions on a 900-km railway project that will traverse through Afghanistan and end at Iran's Chah Bahar port. The team of top diplomats, railway and shipping officials was there to examine the project's feasibility. A day after, the Afghan Government has picked an Indian consortium for the $10 billion (Rs.50,000 crore) project to tap the iron ore deposits in the Hajigak region. In addition to the railway line, an Indo-Iranian effort will upgrade Chah Bahar port, quadrupling its cargo capacity to 8 million tonnes.
    The project will give India access to Asia's largest iron ore deposits in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province, bypassing Pakistan. The US Geological Survey says Afghanistan sits atop at least $1 trillion in mineral wealth concentrated in Wardak and Bamiyan provinces. Copper deposits at Aynak are already being developed by the Chinese and Hajigak's iron ore mines could enter production by 2016.

    The consortium, led by Steel Authority of India Limited, includes National Mineral Development Corpo-ration Limited, the largest iron ore miner in the country, as well as private sector steel companies. The blocks B, C and D for which the Indian consortium has won rights have iron ore reserves of 1.3 billion tonnes. The deal surpasses the $4 billion contract signed by China for copper four years ago.

    Beyond the scramble for mineral wealth, the railway line is part of a strategic story unfolding in the region. The Chinese started work on Gwadar port in Pakistan in March 2002, four months after the US ordered its troops into Afghanistan to oust the Taliban. The village lies in Pakistan's Balochistan province. "The port project set off alarm bells in India which already feels encircled by China on three sides: Myanmar, Tibet, and Pakistan. To counter Sino-Pak collaboration, India has brought Afghanistan and Iran into an economic and strategic alliance," says Tarique Niazi of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, who specialises in resource-based conflicts. While India plans to develop Chah Bahar port as a counter to Gwadar, Afghanistan, a land-locked country, will get access to the sea, cutting dependence on Pakistan. An internal Ministry of External Affairs note emphasises the project's importance. "Given the rich mineral resources of Afghanistan, the bid acquires great importance."

    M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat who served in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Moscow, argues that the project is predicated on a broad strategic understanding with Iran. "What is needed is the requisite political will to deeply engage Iran in a major regional project in defiance of the US 'containment' strategy," he says. "I prefer to keep my fingers crossed, given the massive erosion that took place in the last five-six years in the bilateral understanding with Iran on the one side and the pronounced inclination to harmonise our policies with the US regional strategies on the other. Needless to say, Israel will be seething, too, if India actually goes ahead with this project," he adds.



    Read more at: India seeks to counter the Sino-Pak alliance through deals with Kabul and Tehran : NATION News - India Today
     

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