Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

After Ebrahim Raisi’s death, why India will be watching Iran’s succession plan unfold


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bordering countries with Iran;

Mains level: India- Iran Relations;

Why in the News?

The sudden demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash has sent shockwaves through the Islamic Republic, grappling with the implications for the country’s future leadership.

  • India is closely monitoring the unfolding of Iran’s succession plan, given the significant geopolitical and economic stakes involved.
  • India and Iran have recently signed a 10-year agreement to develop and operate a terminal at the strategic Chabahar Port, enhancing trade connections with Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.  

BACK2BASICS: India-Iran Bilateral Relations:

    • Pre-Cold War Era:  India and Iran span centuries of relationship which is marked by meaningful interactions. Both countries shared a border till 1947 with several common features in their language, culture, and traditions. They established their diplomatic ties in March 1950.
  • Cold War Era (1950-1990): India followed its Non-alignment policy, but paralleling strong links with the Soviet Union (USSR), while Iran was an open member of the Western Bloc and enjoyed close ties with the United States.
      • Therefore, the relations between India and Iran suffered due to their differing political interests.
  • Post Cold-War Era:
      • Iran’s continuously supported Pakistan in the India–Pakistan border conflicts. This was also a major reason that India had expressed strong opposition to Iran’s Nuclear program.
      • India’s close relations with Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War greatly strained bilateral ties.
      • Oil Trade: In 2019, due to the sanctions imposed by the US on Iran, India stopped importing crude oil from the country. Before 2019, India was the second biggest buyer of oil from Iran.
      • During recent times in 2021, both countries continued to collaborate in supporting the broad-based anti-Taliban government until the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan.
  • Other Trades:
      • India-Iran bilateral trade during the FY 2020-21 was USD 2.1 billion, a decrease of 56 % as compared to USD 4.8 billion during FY 2019-20.
      • Our Exports to Iran: rice, tea, sugar, fresh fruits, drugs/pharmaceuticals, man-made staple fibers, electrical machinery, artificial jewelry etc.
      • Our Imports from Iran: dry fruits, inorganic/organic chemicals, glass and glassware, natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stones, leather, gypsum, etc.

About Raisi’s Rise and Hardline Agenda:

  • Ebrahim Raisi, had politically risen through the ranks of Iran’s theocracy and was widely seen as a leading candidate to succeed.
  • His presidency was part of a broader consolidation of power by hardliners dedicated to shoring up the pillars of the Islamic Republic against dissent and external threats.
  • Raisi’s death poses significant challenges for the conservative hardliners who had backed him as a unifying figure loyal to the Supreme Leader.
  • Raisi’s demise opens the door for the ambitions of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which has exploited its constitutionally mandated roles to expand its political and economic influence.
  • Raisi’s death introduces great uncertainty into the succession process, with various factions and figures vying for influence.

What are the potential implications of Iran’s succession plan for India?

  • Trade ties: The death of President Raisi could impact India-Iran trade relations, which reached $2.33 billion in 2023-24 under Raisi’s policies.
  • Regional stability: India has enjoyed good ties with Iran and has been involved in key projects like the development of the Chabahar port, which serves as India’s gateway to Central Asia.
    • The succession plan in Iran could affect regional stability and India’s relation to energy security and connectivity.
  • Foreign policy alignment: Changes in Iran’s stance towards regional conflicts and international agreements could influence India’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East.
  • Security concerns: Instability or changes in Iran’s approach to regional conflicts or its relations with other countries could impact India’s security calculations.

Way Forward

India needs to prioritize economic projects like the Chabahar Port, which are crucial for regional trade and India’s strategic interests, ensuring long-term agreements and investments. Further, maintaining a delicate balance between US relations and Iran ties by leveraging diplomatic channels to navigate sanctions can help.


Mains PYQ:

Q In what ways would the ongoing US-Iran Nuclear Pact Controversy affect the national interest of India? How should India respond to its situation? (UPSC IAS/2018)

Q The question of India’s Energy Security constitutes the most important part of India’s economic progress. Analyze India’s energy policy cooperation with West Asian Countries. (UPSC IAS/2017)

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