What is India's relationship with Iran

IndiaIn the field of tension between the USA and Iran

The US sanctions against Iran have not yet come into force, but the announcement of the measures adopted by US President Trump after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal is already putting the Indian government under pressure.

Iran is an important economic partner for India, especially in the energy sector. Since the lifting of the US sanctions under the Obama administration, Iran has become the third largest oil supplier to the Indian economy. Against this background alone, the US sanctions are likely to have painful effects on the Indian economy, says Professor Girijesh Pant, of Nehru University in Delhi:

"Our oil imports from Iran are an important point, but it is also about gas. We want to switch to clean energy sources, gas plays an important role in this and Iran is an important supplier for us."

"We do not accept unilateral measures from a country"

The Indian government is therefore apparently ready to take on the US over sanctions against Iran. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said a few days ago at a meeting with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Delhi that India will not comply with the demands of the US government to cease trade with Iran:

"We have made it clear that we will only obey UN sanctions, we do not accept unilateral measures from a single country. The last time the US imposed sanctions on Iran, we continued our bilateral trade."

It was only at the beginning of the year that India and Iran signed several agreements to strengthen bilateral economic ties. Since the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, the announced US sanctions and their consequences have triggered a broad political discussion in India.

Important oil company wants to submit to US pressure

India must maintain its independence from other great powers, demanded Rajiv Dogra, a former Indian diplomat, in a panel discussion on Indian television. India has already played an important role in the past in maintaining talks between the West and Iran, said Dogra:

"With this move, the US has severely restricted its options in the region. It now only has Pakistan as a dialogue partner. India, on the other hand, made it clear in 2000, when the last time sanctions were imposed on Iran, that India had an important role to play Role in mediating with Iran. The western states understood that at the time and we were able to continue our trade with Iran without negative consequences. "

However, this view is not fully supported by the Indian economy. The Indian company Reliance Industries, which owns one of the world's largest oil refineries, has already announced that it will soon stop processing oil from Iran, apparently to avoid punitive measures by the US government.

Strategically important port cooperation in jeopardy

But it is not just Indian oil and gas imports that could be affected by US sanctions. India is involved in the construction of a large port in Chabahar, in southeastern Iran. A project that is of great strategic importance for India, but which has been slowed down in particular by the years of sanctions in the West. India wants to set up a trade route to Afghanistan via the port in Chabahar, because the direct route there is blocked by warring neighbor Pakistan.

An end to the port project in Chabahar would be the worst consequence of the US sanctions against Iran, said the Indian columnist Uday Bashkar in the panel discussion on Indian television:

"Chabahar has a strategic and also an economic meaning. If India cannot develop this project further, it would be really bad for our strategic interests in the region. India has to act very diplomatically, and the big challenge here is likely to be that we ourselves not have to decide for one side, Iran or the US. "

India calls for constructive solutions from signatory states

Chabahar is only around 150 kilometers away from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in which the People's Republic of China is involved, as part of its Belt & Road policy, i.e. the construction of a new silk road, which in this case runs from the Indian Ocean, across Pakistan and Kashmir, leads to China.

India has already invested around 500 million US dollars in this strategically important project and now fears that it will lose influence in the region compared to its rival China.

In view of the imminent US sanctions, the Indian government has called on all states involved in the Iran nuclear deal to find a constructive solution. The expectations are particularly directed towards Europe.