April 25

India seeks right balance of ties with US, Iran

New Delhi: India is looking to balance its ties between the US and Iran even as New Delhi plans to source oil from alternate sources following expiry of waiver for Iranian oil imports from early May. New Delhi plans to assert its strategic autonomy by continuing to pursue its partnership with Tehran in long-term strategic interests, according sources.

India’s sole gateway to Iran is through Afghanistan and provides a shorter route to Central Asia and Eastern Russia via the Chabahar Port. Central Asian majors Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan want to connect with India to push their respective economic partnerships with Delhi and connections tivity via Iran remains the most viable option, said a source.

Iran is also a key element in India’s Indo-Pacific construct to connect Eurasia with Indian Ocean and Pacific as Delhi hopes to provide an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, another source said.

International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), currently under negotiations, will connect Mumbai with St Petersburg in a shorter time period via Iran as India seeks to broadbase its economic ties with Russia. Iran is also critical to counter-balance Pakistan and securing Afghan interests in the long term, another source pointed out.

Indo-Iran ties could be an irritant for Indo-US relationship, reckon experts. “Iran and Venezuela sanctions have come at a time when other irritants in the US-India relationship have come to the fore. There are trade frictions, with the administration’s announcement that it intends to withdraw India’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences because of continuing concerns about Indian trade and investment policies. The 60-day deadline for a final decision on this step falls in early May,” wrote Tanvi Madan of Brookings Institute in her latest paper.

“Washington is unhappy with India’s defence deals with Russia, despite US sanctions. Defence deals with the US, meanwhile, are still being negotiated or have stalled. India, in turn, is concerned about the Afghan peace talks and what Washington might cede to the Taliban — and to Pakistan for bringing them to the table."

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