It should come as little surprise that India was among the first nations to welcome the historic agreement reached between the US and Iran recently on the latter’s nuclear program.
India’s external affairs ministry responded to the development by releasing a statement Friday, saying it (India) welcomed the understanding announced in Lausanne between Iran and the E3+3 on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“A significant step seems to have been taken with agreement on the parameters of a comprehensive settlement to be negotiated by June 30,” the statement said.
Secretly, Indian government officials must have let loose a sigh of relief over the agreement, since two of their most important, modern-day allies could now be seen by the world to be on the same side of the “Us versus Them” debate. One wherein the definitions of “Us” and “Them” have changed dramatically in the past year, accounting for the new twists and turns in geopolitics.
US vs. Them Scenario
India is not new to the “Us versus Them” scenario where Iran and the US are concerned. Twice earlier, it had voted with the US in the UN on Iran’s nuclear program, a move that was seen as an “abandonment” of Iran, its traditional ally. For example, in February 2006, India, with 26 other nations, had decided to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, much to the consternation of not only the then-Iranian government, but also to the alarm of many in India’s political circles.
It would not be wrong to say that India has been a reluctant client in joining the Western powers in their crusade against Iran.
- India and Iran share historic ties, which is often the centerpiece of modern-day business hobnobbing between the two.
- For decades, outside of Russia, Iran has been India’s go-to nation for its energy needs, including crude oil. The lynchpin in the bilateral ties between India and Iran even today is energy
- India also wants a slice of Iran’s mineral reserves pie. Iran sits on about 3% of global mineral reserves. It also ranks among the 15 major mineral-rich countries of the world.
- India has been actively meeting up with Iran on two more issues – the transport of goods over land to Europe through Afghanistan which bypasses India’s neighbor, Pakistan; and natural gas exploration.
But, as this research paper by the Council on Foreign Relations puts it, in the last few years, Indo-Iranian ties have come under pressure because of improvements in the trade and diplomatic relationship between India and the US. Both nations have discovered a new warmth, with the US even bending over backwards to accommodate India with the 2005 framework for the Indo—US civilian nuclear agreement.
The relatively new US-Israel-India friendship demanded that old relations (India-Iran) be discarded or at least scaled down, and that’s something that India was most hesitant to do. Even at the height of sanctions against Iran, it was no secret that India was perhaps the only country that would continue buying oil from Tehran, and also trade with it, a fact not liked by many within the US, but somewhat overlooked by the US government.
The author, Sohrab Darabshaw, contributes an Indian perspective on industrial metals markets to MetalMiner.