Why India must stand with Iran

On May 2, the six-month long Congressional waiver on buying oil from Iran elapsed. The waiver applied to eight countries. Italy and Greece immediately cut off oil supply from Iran. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are likely to follow suit.

It is likely that China will not submit to the American will, considering Chinese ambitions of attaining regional hegemony. Turkey is in a peculiar position to decide. Its relations with Iran have proved to be beneficial so far in tackling its Kurdish problem and keeping the Salafist monarchy in check.

India, however, is in a dilemma. Its policy of strategic autonomy and pragmatism to thrive under the American rules-based order has come at a cost of deprioritising friendships and neutrality.

With the rapid economic and military growth of China, policymakers in both Washington and New Delhi have inked pacts which allow the US military to refuel its ships and share its communications, respectively.

Apart from this, Washington went on and changed the name of the Pacific Command to ‘Indo’-Pacific to show the importance of New Delhi in countering China. In this fruitless great power game New Delhi has entered upon, it has forgotten the core values which were the impetus for its interaction with the world.

Non-alignment, fairness of means are now punchlines of the past. India stood against probably its only ally in 1956 when the Soviet Union invaded Hungary. Today, India abstains in the UN when Israel illegally annexes territories in West Bank or the Golan Heights, all for short-term military and economic gains.

In the midst of complying with US legislations, the South Block has forgotten to thank its Iranian counterpart for sharing the recipe centuries ago. We might call this pragmatism, but this is ignorance, especially by the current ruling party.

Any shared culture which doesn’t fit within the ambit of the ruling party is to be ripped off from the pages of history. The fragrance of Ithar which lingers around the old markets in the country is politicised only because it was brought by a foreign ruler who wasn’t Hindu?

Even if the country wants to assert its ‘just business’ stance, they must understand that it is the culture: the habits, the clothing, language, mass media which creates a hegemony, which induces the individual to think that way.

For example, American presence is not strong because of the military bases it possesses across the globe, but because your television, the soap opera, and the language you are reading my article is all in American English, probably even your thoughts articulated by a language which is spoken 7000 miles away.

Iran for us is culturally a very integral part of our historical evolution. Intellectuals, traders and rulers from Central Asia travelled via Iran and entered India. Today, apart from the oil, India, and Iran have jointly built a port which will connect Mumbai to Chabahar which will proceed to Central Asian countries by road and rail. This region is critical in terms of its energy resources.

Not to mention the World’s largest reserves of zinc, chromite and lead are found in Kazakhstan. These resources and the trade with Iran, will increase economic interaction and even connect the region.

Having a piece of cake and eating it too: the benefits received alone from the Central Asian region and Iran will not suffice India’s growing needs, hence the US is also required.

Realistically speaking, having relations with Iran and the US is possible. This requires the policymakers to simulate every possible outcome.

India is by far the only country in America’s Asia-pacific neighbourhood to have a military force minimally capable of stopping China. India also seems reliable enough not to join the Chinese bandwagon like Philippines or Thailand.

Politically speaking, Washington needs India to re-balance the region, as the fifth and seventh fleet alone are incapable of containing Chinese presence in Asia. This alone should be a reason for Washington to fold; a sanction on India will only improve Sino-Indian ties.

Fancy terms

It is time the policymakers in New Delhi do their job apart from throwing fancy terms for every invisible ‘non-military strike’ the armed forces makes against Pakistan. It becomes pertinent for India to restore its credibility; Iran has been getting close to China and also join­ed the Belt and Road Initiative.

India needs to increase its consumption of energy from Iran to gain its trust and stand by the International Atomic Energy Agency verdict on Iran not possessing any nuclear weapons. New Delhi must stand with other European countries in opening the SWIFT transaction method, which bypasses the sanctions.

Starving Iran will only make the Ayatollah more hostile and can brew a security dilemma leading to Iran developing nuclear weapons, which will result in the Al-Sauds building their nuclear arsenal and even a probable US intervention in the Persian Gulf.

Amidst this chaos, it is up to India to either hold onto a double-edged sword or to unfurl the torn page from history.

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