Iran-India ties largely unscathed by any US influence

TEHRAN, Jul. 07 (MNA) – An international relations analyst has told Mehr News India and Iran would prosper through working together even if both countries espouse different political powers in the region.

Vahid Pourtajrischi of Mehr News International Service asked Mr. Kedar Kaskar, an international relations analyst and an expert of Asian affairs about the Iran-Indian economic ties and especially trilateral agreement focused on Chabahar development. Mr. Kedar Kaskar believed that Indian efforts focused on meeting increasing pressures from its giant and rising neighbour China who has relations with Pakistan, India’s arch-rival, and to bypass Pakistan in reaching to Afghanistan, its new regional alley through Iranian routes.

What will be potential opportunities and interests of India relating to the North- South Transport Corridor (NSTC)?  

NSTC proposed route is short compared to existing routes. So, it will save time and money in transportation of goods. Hence it is cost effective. Its path is safe compared to Silk Road Economic Bet (SREB) of China's proposed route which goes via Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Security-wise, Iraqi and Syrian parts of the path are dangerous. India wants to invest more in Central Asia. It will be easier for India to connect to Central Asia via Iran.

India strongly supports Afghanistan in non-military sectors and it will continue to do so because Afghanistan going through turbulent times and Indians don’t want Taliban getting upper hand in Afghanistan. They want peace and prosperity in the region. Chabahar provides an easy path for Afghanistan which effectively renders Pakistan bypassed.  

Apart from financial benefits of NSTC, there are other benefits also, such as rise in tourism sector, communication, infrastructure, people-to-people contact and growing collaboration of India, Iran, Central Asian and Caucasian countries, thus sharing and upgrading technical expertise in various fields mutually.

How do you see the future of Chabahar gas pipeline project? What are the problems on executing this project? Is it executable in general?

I am optimistic about the future of Chabahar gas pipeline project. India and Iran have already agreed to develop Chabahar port. This will increase Iran's oil exporting capacity. Currently, Iran heavily depends on Bandar Abbas. Chabahar port will provide another viable option. Similarly Chabahar-Porbandar Gas Pipeline Project will also kick off and it will be successful. It contains growth and benefit opportunities for both Iran and India. I don’t know the technical problems in the execution of pipeline project as I am not the expert in that field. But I simply know that it is the matter of how much serious the decision makers in two countries are about this pipeline project. Everything depends on this. In the past, India had created supercomputer on its own, mission to send telescope on Mars on its own. We collaborated with Russia, to make Brahmos missile, achievements in the face of various difficulties. This time countries like Iran are collaborating with India in pipeline project. So I am confident that we will overcome all odds.

The US is unsatisfied with Chabahar agreement between Iran and India. How can India resolve this problem as a significant strategic ally of US in South Asia?

I think Obama administration has only expressed that they had been keenly observing the outcome of Chabahar agreement. This remark can be taken negatively as well as neutrally. Until 2015 nobody could imagine even in dreams that Iran-US nuclear deal will come into existence. Nobody could possibly visualize US lifting sanctions from Iran. All this happened just few months ago. It means that the US and Iran are coming together because of the new strategic calculations in the region. Even though the decision-makers in Iran and the US are coming together, it will take a lot of years to reduce the animosity regarding each other in general public of both countries.

Hence when Iran and India are coming close pro-Saudi, pro-Israel, pro-China, and pro-Pakistan lobbies are getting restless. And as we all know that US administration gets influenced by such lobbyists, we should not bother much about possible US opposition, because it is too early. We have to carry on our project. Because Obama administration will change within few months. So it is not in any position to effectively stop our pipeline project. We will have to wait for presidential elections and new President's views about this project. (We should not take candidate's thoughts about India and Iran in the election campaigns, because once came to power, US President's generally will not change the line of previous President at least in the matters of foreign policy.)

You asked how India can resolve this problem. I think India alone will not resolve this problem. India and Iran both are going to solve this problem. Because NSTC was agreed by India, Iran, Russia and some Central Asian countries, way back in 2002. So it is not new thing. Interests of various countries are involved. In case of Chabahar-Porbandar gas pipeline interests of India and Iran are involved. So, both countries will tackle US, if US opposes. For various reasons I think US will not oppose our pipeline project. One of the reason is simple. In recent future it is predicted that oil prices will rise again. Low crude and gas prices helped US derail economic situation in Russia and Saudi Arabia, etc. So, if India's oil thirst gets fulfilled by Iran more than current percentage, then naturally India will buy less Saudi oil. There are other reasons also.

Recently during Prime Minister Modi's US visit, a joint statement was released which stated that 'India is a strategic and defence partner of US.' But now US Senate has rejected bill regarding this issue. So it would not consider India as its strategic and defence partner.

How do you see the future of Iran-India relations?

I think US, the west and even China consider Iran as piece of pie, which has recently opened its doors. They might consider Iran as best destination for investment and they look at Iran as the only 'market.' On the other hand, India and Iran relationship is time-tested. So many countries ditched Iran during Iran's difficult times, but India stood with Iran. When economic sanctions were imposed by the US, so many countries had to stop economic ties with Iran. But India did not succumb to pressures. Somehow India continued support to Iran.  It voted against Iran's nuclear project in IAEA; that is the only glitch however. But even two friends can have two different positions. And opinions can change. Our historical and cultural bonds are far more important.

It does matter whether India is an ally of the US or whether India is friend of Israel. Indo-US relationship is out of necessity. In post-Cold War era it became the major pattern. To survive and to prosper, any nation maintained good relations with the US. Our relationship with US is important because we have an aggressive and highly expansionistic neighbour such as China, who is fuelling the nuisance-value of Pakistan constantly. Our relationship with Israel is mainly in two sectors. Agriculture and defence. In these two sectors Israel is far more superior globally and we are still not better in research and development in these two sectors. India's bilateral relations with these two countries will not harm Iranian national interests.

If we join our efforts to fight against terrorism and global warming, if we collaborate to bring prosperity and peace in Asia, it will help India, Iran and the world. 

Kedar Kaskar is Assistant Professor and S.P College affiliated to University of Pune in India

Interview by: Vahid Pourtajrishi

News Code 117875

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