GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Sujata Ashwarya
Title of Paper:
India’s Relations with Iran: Looking beyond Oil
Paper Proposal Text :
There is a propensity to look at India-Iran relations through the prism of New Delhi’s growing energy needs. While this perception draws upon the fact that Iran is the second-largest supplier of crude oil to India and that India has made considerable investments in Iranian natural gas sector, it does not tell the whole story. India’s ‘other’ relations with Iran is based on a far deeper strategic consideration than what is immediately evident. A rapidly growing economy, dynamic services and high-technology industries, and enhanced human resources, has fuelled India’s great power ambitions, which now appears realistic and attainable. With a sense of manifest destiny, New Delhi desires to emerge out of its ‘geopolitical shell’ and play a significant global role. Having established regional primacy, India is eager to reach out to the smaller states in its near-abroad in accordance with a vision of outwards expansion of power and influence. India’s foothold in Iran is pivotal here as it imparts New Delhi the ability to exert pressure on Pakistan, monitor terrorist activities emanating from the tribal areas at the Pak-Afghan border, and project power in Afghanistan and the Central Asian region, thereby, conferring India the desired presence and strategic depth in these crucial theatres. It is not surprising, then, that India seeks mutually beneficial partnership with Iran to contain the Taliban militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, India also wants to maintain a favourable balance of influence in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia, as China gains traction in the region with increasing investments and military assistance. This requires constant strategic engagement with Iran and an identification of shared interests and threats. While it is true that India reversed its traditional position by voting against Iranian nuclear programme at the IAEA and has forged strategic ties with the United States, New Delhi has refused, unlike the Western powers, to view Iran’s nuclear programme in light of Iran-Israel rivalry in the region, and has reiterated Tehran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

This paper argues that based on realist assessment of self-interests and a vision of expansion of power in its proximate neighbourhood, India’s relations with Iran will continue to be salient in India’s foreign policy stances in western and south-western Asia. Secondly, India’s strategic ties with Iran’s arch rival, the United States, have not limited the scope of Tehran’s worth in New Delhi’s strategic calculations and it will continue to expand as Indo-Chinese rivalry for political and economic gains in the international system exists and intensifies in overlapping regions. Thirdly, the inherent sense of caution in India’s foreign policy will see that a fine balance is maintained between India’s interests in Iran and those in the United States, even as New Delhi will be called upon to takes sides in the event of an Iran-US war in the Persian Gulf.