Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India should not jump to conclusion in dealing with Iran


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Jask Port

Mains level: Paper 2- Iran-China deal and concerns for India

Two events which happened in quick succession raised concern in India. Iran’s decision to continue the railway project on its own and the reports of deal with China, both the events weighs heavily on India’s interests. This article examines the future course of action which India must adopt in such a situation.


  • Iran and China are close to concluding a 25-year strategic partnership.
  • This is being linked to reports that Iran has decided to undertake the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line on its own.
  • The project has not been handed over to China — at least not yet — so the “India loses, China wins” narrative is premature.

What does the China-Iran deal indicate?

  • China attaches importance to Iran, which is a key source of energy supplies, a part of Belt and Road Initiative, and a potentially lucrative market.
  • However, like India, China has also in parallel cultivated closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • China continues to have a strong relationship with Israel.
  • As China’s economic, military and technological capabilities have increased, its profile in this strategically important region has also expanded.

What should be India foreign policy approach towards Iran

  • While acknowledging changed regional geopolitical landscape, India should pursue continue the policy of maintaining positive relations with Iran, the Arab states and Israel.
  • India will have more room for manoeuvring in the region by continuing to maintain a strong and friendly relationship with Iran.
  • One should also not exclude the possibility of a Democratic US President reviving the Iran nuclear deal.
  •  The revival of the deal will open the door for US and European companies to resume business with Iran.
  • It is the reinstatement of severe economic sanctions that has led Iran to turn to China, but the latter has remained cautious.
  • The pursuit of a closer security partnership with the US does not mean that India should follow the US lead on its other important relationships.

Concerns for India

  • While maintaining the relations, India should not monitor closely the development of relations between China and Iran, which could complicate our security interests on our western flank. 
  • Of particular concern is a reference to China constructing a new port at Jask at the mouth of the Hormuz strait.
  •  If the port were operated by China, India’s maritime security would be at further risk.
  • It would also be of deep concern to the Arab states who will suffer from any closing of the Hormuz Strait while Iran remains less affected.
  • This is an issue on which the Arab states may well react adversely to China.
  • India, too, should press its concerns on Iran while working on a counter-strategy.

Consider the question “Balancing the contrasts has been the basis of India’s relations with Iran. Comment.”


India should continue its engagement with Iran while pressing for its concerns at the same time in particular when it comes to Iran’s relations with China endangering India’s interest.

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