Stuck in US-Iran conflict, India looks forward to find middle ground

NEW DELHI: As the President of the US Donald Trump has walked out of the nuclear pact with Iran, the deal lies in shreds. Despite the coming rash of US sanctions, India remains on the familiar ground of staying engaged with Tehran.

On Wednesday, The Ministry of External Affairs of India said, “India has always maintained that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy by respecting Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy as also the international community’s strong interest in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. All parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

In 2015, when the JCPOA was signed, India was one of the most relieved countries. Besides, the PM Narendra Modi described it as a “triumph of diplomacy and sagacity”. Earlier this year, during the visit from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the country, a joint statement recorded the support from India. It described the deal as a “crucial contribution to the non-proliferation framework and international peace, stability and security”.

From 2011, India came under intense pressure regarding its relations with Iran, from the US. Moreover, the country lost its top source for oil, Persian nation, which was replaced by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, India also promised in 2018 to increase its import of oil from Iran. This is certainly something prone to get impacted.

India had built an alternative system of engaging with Iran while keeping its relations safe with the US, during the first round of sanctions. One of them was using UCO Bank for payments.

Officials said that those same processes are like to kicokok in this time as well. However, this time around US enforcement could be much weaker. There was agreed enforcement of sanctions by the P5+1, in 2011-12.

India will have many other countries willing to work around US sanctions, as the Europeans don’t want to tatter the deal. Countries like France, UK, Germany, China and Russia will declared that they will also stand by the deal.

The US has given certain time to a number of countries to wind down operations in Iran, that is, 90-day and 180-day waiver period. The trouble spot for India will be Chahbahar port, as it is a crucial point for connectivity and geopolitical links with Afghanistan and central Asia.

Both India and Afghanistan have managed to squeeze an exception from the US on Chahbahar, in the previous round of sanctions. This time, India is hoping for a similar exception.

However, the Indian private sector may not invest in Iran. During Rouhani’s visit, the rupee-rial agreement to aid investments that was agreed upon is yet to become reality.

The US has some concerns regarding the “secondary sanctions”, which were around even in the first round of Iran sanctions. Owing to this, the entities doing business in Iran with sanctions are under a threat.

However, a US official told the journalists on Wednesday, “The leverage that we gained from the secondary sanctions is what we used throughout the world with engagement to get countries to partner with us to build the economic isolation of Iran. That’s what we want to do again.”

On the other hand, India has other concerns. In the last few years, Iran has not been able to rebuild its economy in any meaningful way. Moreover, its economic conditions are more vulnerable today than it was earlier.

Iran has spent more capital on the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, in the last few years. This resulted in inflation and unemployment, which further led to mass protests earlier this year.

It is being anticipated that the Rouhani government might come under a great domestic pressure. However, the more alarming issue is that it could create a greater space for the hardliners in Iran.

For the interim, India still awaits to see how the entire process will unfold.

Ankita Desai
About Ankita Desai (107 Articles)
A budding researcher, Ankita is a Maitreyi College alumna with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. Socio-political aspects of the society hold her special interest, apart from the events happening all across the globe. Whether it’s politics, economy or women’s issues, Ankita is adept at expressing her views in an unapologetic manner. When she’s not busy with voicing her opinion, she loves traveling and capturing memories through her camera.

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