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India’s tough choice in relations with Iran

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Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Senior Researcher and Analyst of International Affairs

Iran and India have thousands of year’s records of cultural and civilizational relations. Official relations between the two countries were established after India’s independence. Iran and India signed a friendship pact after India’s independence.

Iran’s position in India’s foreign policy

India’s foreign policy has changed since independence. Accordingly, the importance of economic goals and maintaining the coefficient of geopolitical and security goals in India’s foreign policy has caused Delhi to consider various components in its view to Iran.

Meanwhile, the strategic position, energy resources and areas of economic cooperation have played an important role. Delhi is trying to adjust relations with Iran in terms of variables.

In fact, on the one hand, in recent years, the United States has continued to consider India as a real ally, and we have actually seen the improvement of economic and strategic relations, the deepening and development of the partnership between the two countries. In addition, India’s ruling party has sought to expand ties with the United States.

India, on the other hand, seeks to strike a balance with other powers, gain the interests and position of a great power, and play a key international role. Therefore, in addition to paying attention to the alliance with the United States, it pays close attention to effective relations with Iran. In fact, India continues to view Iran as a major regional power influencing regional and international developments.

Therefore, despite some challenges, Indian leaders have always tried to maintain a level of relations with Iran and, while maintaining relations with the great powers, do not even ignore their relations with Tehran.

Geopolitical and security motives in India’s view to Iran

Improving India’s position as an economic power and regional power is crucial for New Delhi. In addition, the role of Iran is very important for increasing India’s trade with Central Asia and Eurasia, maintaining the north-south international transport corridor, countering China’s influence in Pakistan’s Gwadar, and so on.

In another dimension, India is also seeking to increase cooperation with Iran over Afghanistan. Considering the Taliban’s talks with the Afghan government and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, India intends to maintain its interests in Afghanistan. This has also led India to continue to pay attention to Iran.

India has also faced the challenge of extremist Islamism since independence. On the other hand, in the view of New Delhi, Pakistan uses the tools of extremist Islam to put pressure on India. Therefore, maintaining relations with Tehran to neutralize the role of Pakistani regional policies is prominent.

Chabahar port and Multilateral Agreement

According to some estimates, the Chabahar route, along with the North-South Corridor, could increase India’s trade with Eurasia by a total of $ 170 billion.

Chabahar port can be an important hub for trade to and through Central Asia via Afghanistan. In another dimension, the main competitor to the Chabahar port project is the Gwadar port in Pakistan, which was launched with the help of China.

This has led India to pay attention to maintaining its presence in Iran.

Competing with China in Iran

Fopllowing the signing of the initial document of the strategic and long-term cooperation agreement between Iran and China, New Delhi feels that the scope of India’s role in Iran will be limited. Pakistan’s satisfaction from the rise of Iran-China relations and the risk of further Beijing’s cooperation in road and port transport infrastructure has raised satisfaction concerns in New Delhi.

This is while, India failing fulfill its commitments based on Chabahar investing agreement, has blown a series of roads and railways, buying oil and investing in energy in Iran.

In fact, many critics in India believe that India is losing its privileged position in Iran in China’s favor. In these circumstances, the recent visit of the Indian Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs to Tehran shows a kind of concern about the filling of India’s position by China.

In fact, India seeks to strengthen cooperation and investment in Iran with the US green light. So New Delhi worries that the US’s use of India to put pressure on Iran increase the China’s influence in Iran.

Iran’s Energy and Oil

India is one of the largest customers of oil in the world. India’s rapid economic growth, lack of domestic energy resources, its efforts to give diversify to its energy imports, to guarantee imports and energy security have become top priorities for India.

But in the current circumstances, New Delhi is trying to find a solution to reduce the growing confrontation between the United States and Iran, especially the US sanctions against Iran in the field of energy, so not to lose the game to China.

Meanwhile, India, based on its national interests, has lowered its oil purchases from Iran, so the energy sector became the most vulnerable area of ​​cooperation.


The main basis in shaping India’s foreign policy is national interests. But while US sanctions against Iran are tougher and smarter than ever; India is trying to re-evaluate its priorities and consider continuing cooperation with Iran.

In fact, New Delhi is now looking to further establish a special financial mechanism, negotiate more with US officials, regulate minimum imports, and expand the necessary interactions with Iran.

Therefore, India tries not to reduce their role in Iran, because, its absence in Iran will deepen China’s presence in the country, securing Pakistan’s benefits, upset the balance of power in the Indian Ocean in favor of China, strengthen Iran-China-Pakistan-Russia cooperation and losing Chabahar.