10 June 2024

Is India Making a Good Bet on Iran?

Monish Tourangbam and Sarabjit Kaur

The quest for strategic autonomy remains the lodestar of India’s foreign policy, whether through Cold War era non-alignment or the new age of multi-alignment. India’s growing strategic embrace of the United States contrasts with New Delhi’s penchant for independent agency in foreign policy decision-making. Particularly in dealing with U.S. adversaries, New Delhi has had to walk a tightrope, and as such, managing the curious case of India-Iran-U.S. dynamics will remain a challenge for India’s foreign policy planners.

On May 13, 2024, India and Iran made headlines by signing a landmark agreement to develop and manage the strategic Chabahar Port, and drew diplomatic ire from Washington. The deal was inked between India Port Global Limited (IPGL) and Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO). Coincidentally, the agreement was sealed just before the sudden demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash. At a time of increasing India-U.S. partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, and of heightened Washington-Tehran tensions in West Asia, can New Delhi sustain the momentum of its engagement with Tehran? In short, is India making a good bet on Iran?

Collaboration on the development of the Chabahar Port has remained a point of convergence and joint strategic vision, supported through successive political leaderships on both sides. The recent deal is a culmination of many milestones over the years. In a landmark 2003 visit by then-President Mohammad Khatami of Iran to India, the two nations signed “The New Delhi Declaration,” solidifying their strategic partnership. The centerpiece of the declaration was collaboration on the development of Chabahar Port, through which India and Iran aimed to unlock new trade routes and connect the region to Central Asia and Europe. The agreement holds immense significance for India as it provides an alternative trade route to landlocked Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.

No comments: