Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

The diplomatic costop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Changing India-Iran relations.


The CAA and violence in Delhi have started to take its toll on India’s secular foreign policy.

The US and other’s reaction to the situation in India

  • Trump visit to India: President Trump referred to India as a democracy which was peaceful and tolerant. He lauded freedom, rule of law, liberty and protection of human dignity, adding graphically that where India had the holy Ganges, it also had the Golden Temple and Jama Masjid.
    • Assurance to the critics at home: He thereby cleverly reassured critics at home, especially in the US Congress, that he was not ignoring the values the two great democracies shared.
    • However, as the situation in Delhi spun into violence the next day, in an untutored media interaction at the US ambassador’s residence, he ducked questions about the CAA or Delhi riots, nonchalantly remarking it was “up to India” to deal with it.
    • This may have brought comfort to the Indian government but the world at large differed.
  • Response from the other countries: Delhi had already exchanged angry words with Malaysia, Turkey and even Indonesia over their varied critique of India’s handling of its Muslim minority when Iran joined the issue.

Iran’s response to violence in India

  • Condemnation by foreign ministers: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the “wave of organised violence against Indian Muslims”, adding that “Iran has been a friend of India”.
    • India’s foreign ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to protest the inappropriateness of the minister’s remark.
  • The reaction by the Iranian Supreme Leader: Soon after, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei found the time, in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, to excoriate the Indian government.
    • Adding insult to injury, he appended #IndianMuslimsInDanger.
  • No reaction on China problems: A facile response, can be that Iran is being hypocritical as it has not expressed remorse over the Chinese repression of Uyghurs.
  • The difference in India’s importance to China: China is a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, which also sustains the Iranian economy despite US sanctions. On the other hand, India has a Shia population second only to that of Iran.

Relations with Iran

  • Two consulates in India: There are two Iranian consulates in India in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Iran seeks the third one in Lucknow.
    • Qom also hosts many Shia students, particularly from the Kargil region.
  • Historic links between the two countries: After Humanyun’s exile in Iran (1530-40) before recovering the Indian throne, the Persian language and culture fired the cultural renaissance at the Mughal court.
    • Religio-cultural heritage importance: India is important for Iran for its religio-cultural heritage, unlike China, which is needed for transactional and strategic reasons.
  • Two interrelated questions flow from this reasoning:
    • 1. What is Iran’s importance for India and the trajectory of India-Iran relations over the last two decades?
    • 2. And why is Iran adopting this sharp tone over what the Indian government argues is an internal matter?
  • Convergence in the relations: The closest India-Iran strategic convergence began in the 1990s, particularly after Kabul fell to the Taliban in 1996. These ties blossomed under reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • Tehran Declaration: In 2001, the two signed the Teheran Declaration. Khatami in his opening remarks said that Iran always admired India’s secular credentials and Vajpayee had maintained that tradition.
    • In 2003, Khatami was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day and a New Delhi Declaration was issued.
  • Deterioration in relations and impact of India-US relation: The relationship began to slip as Iran’s clandestine nuclear programme and assistance from Pakistan’s rogue scientist A Q Khan was uncovered in mid-2003.
    • Impact of India-US closeness: Concomitantly, India was drawing closer to the US and negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement.
    • The US used the nuclear issue to cause a cleavage as Indian and Iranian interests began seriously diverging.
    • Taliban factor: In any case, the Taliban had been ejected from Afghanistan and US troops literally surrounded Iran, having in 2003 overthrown Saddam Hussein. Geo-strategy trumped diplomacy.

The US-Iran relation cycle

  • The nuclear deal with Iran: Iran-US relations also went through a cycle, with President Barack Obama recalibrating US policy towards the Gulf and West Asia.
    • Countering ISIS: Calculating that without Iran, ISIS could not be countered, the US in 2015 endorsed the nuclear deal that P-5 and Germany negotiated to end the nuclear stand-off.
  • Missing warmth of the 1990s: Although India-Iran relations after that returned to near normal as most US sanctions were lifted, the warmth of the 1990s was missing.
    • Iran was now beginning to extend its influence and role across Iraq and West Asia.
  • Maximum Pressure strategy of the US: President Donald Trump in 2016 reversed US policy and since then “maximum pressure” has been applied on Iran via tightened sanctions.
  • India’s engagement with Saudi Arabia and UAE: PM Modi also moved more forthrightly to engage Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • The fallout of the US strategy reversal: A fallout of the US policy reversal has been an exacerbation of not only the Shia-Sunni split but a Sunni-Sunni split as Qatar and Turkey are with Iran.

Changing polity and increasing influence in the neighbourhood

  • Conservatives elected to power: In Iran’s parliamentary election on February 28, extremely conservative members have been elected, the moderates having been vetoed by the Guardians Council earlier.
    • Turnout was a low 43 per cent, due partly to fear of the coronavirus.
  • Increasing influence in the neighbourhood: Iran is even more isolated, though determined to resist US demands, due to communications being curtailed due to the virus.
    • Relations with the Taliban: It has good working relations with the Taliban and converging interests to see that US troops exit the region.
    • The friendly government in Baghdad: Iran is battling to ensure a friendly government in Baghdad, despite the killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani, by keeping militias aligned to it in play.


  • Perception of India: Khamenei’s tweet reflects the perception that India is in the US-Saudi-Emirati corner and of little use as long as Trump is president.
    • Growing closeness Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Ahmedabad would have led Iran to this conclusion.
  • Leveraging India’s dependence: In the Islamic world, Iran by publicly defending Indian Muslims embarrasses the silent Saudis.
    • It also calculates that India needs access to Afghanistan through Chabahar to assist the Ghani government or influence developments there.


Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

What is Jus Cogens?Priority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jus Cogens

Mains level : Principle of Jus Cogens

The US has threatened to target few historical sites if Iran retaliates to attack US in revenge. This is a breach of JUS COGENS as targeting cultural sites amounts to a a war crime.

Jus Cogens

  • The jus cogens rules have been sanctioned by the Vienna Conventions on the Law of Treaties of 1969 and 1986. According to both Conventions, a treaty is void if it breaches jus cogens rules.
  • Jus Cogens or ius cogens, meaning “compelling law” in Latin, are rules in international law that are peremptory or authoritative, and from which states cannot deviate.
  • These norms cannot be offset by a separate treaty between parties intending to do so, since they hold fundamental values.
  • Today, most states and international organisations accept the principle of jus cogens, which dates back to Roman times.

What does the convention say?

  • Article 53 of the 1969 Convention says: “A treaty is void if, at the time of its conclusion, it conflicts with a peremptory norm of general international law.
  • For the purposes of the present Convention, a peremptory norm of general international law is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole as a norm.
  • From this no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.
  • Article 64 says- If a new peremptory norm of general international law emerges, any existing treaty which is in conflict with that norm becomes void and terminates.
  • Besides treaties, unilateral declarations also have to abide by these norms.

What is included in jus cogens?

  • So far, an exhaustive list of jus cogens rules does not exist.
  • However, the prohibition of slavery, genocide, racial discrimination, torture, and the right to self-determination are recognised norms.
  • The prohibition against apartheid is also recognised as a jus cogens rule, from which no derogation is allowed, since apartheid is against the basic principles of the UN.

What is the problem with targeting cultural heritage?

  • Following the unparalleled destruction of cultural heritage in World War II, the nations of the world adopted at The Hague in 1954, The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
  • It was the first international treaty focussed exclusively on the protection of cultural heritage during war and armed conflict.
  • The Convention defined cultural property as “movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular; archaeological sites….”, etc.
  • There are currently 133 signatories to Convention, including countries that have acceded to and ratified the treaty.
  • Both the United States and Iran (as well as India) signed the Convention on May 14, 1954, and it entered into force on August 7, 1956.
  • The Rome Statute of 1998, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, describes as a “war crime” any intentional attack against a historical monument, or a building dedicated to religion, education, art, or science.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] Iran on the boil: on nationwide protestsop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Iranian protests


Nationwide protests broke out in Iran and pose a challenge to the Iranian regime.


    • Troubles already – Iran is already struggling to fix a battered economy, hostile ties with the U.S. and waning influence in West Asia.
    • Trigger to protests – the government’s decision to raise the price of rationed fuel made thousands of people take to the streets.
    • Against the Islamic regime – The protesters chanted slogans against the Islamic regime, carried “Death to Khamenei” posters, in a direct challenge to the country’s Supreme Leader. 
    • Government response – Security personnel unleashed violence on the protesters and the government shut down the Internet. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s top paramilitary force, has threatened to crack down on the demonstrations.


    • Fuel – Iran still has one of the lowest fuel prices in the world. The rise was enough for people reeling under high inflation, joblessness, and a collapsing economy to take to the streets.
    • Nuclear deal – Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions has dealt a blow to Iran’s economy.
    • State of the economy – Inflation has risen to 40%. A quarter of Iran’s youth is unemployed. According to the IMF, the country’s economy is expected to contract by 9.5% this year. The currency, the rial, has plunged to record lows against the dollar.
    • State in the region – Iran’s influence in Lebanon and Iraq is being challenged by protesters. In Iraq, protesters burned an Iranian consulate. In Lebanon, protesters demand the resignation of the entire political class. 


    • In recent years, Iran has seen many protests and labor agitations. 
    • The regime’s response has always been to brand the protesters as counter-revolutionaries and blamed foreign hands.
    • Iran needs a lasting solution to address its revolting underbelly. It can’t violently suppress the protesters forever and needs to get the nuclear deal back on track.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] Slippery slopeMains Onlyop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : India should not be a mute spectator to building crisis in gulf and take measures to protect it's interest.


Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was in New Delhi this week as part of a regional outreach that includes Russia, China, Turkmenistan and Iraq amid rising tensions in West Asia.


The U.S. has followed withdrawal of its sanctions-waiver for Iranian oil with a series of actions that it claims are in response to the perceived threat from Iran.

Hostile measures

  • It has recalled all non-emergency diplomatic staff based in neighbouring Iraq; sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, missile defence hardware and B-52 bombers to the Gulf; imposed fresh sanctions on various Iranian entities; and slapped a terror designation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
  • Iran has matched some of the rhetoric with threats that it would close off the Strait of Hormuz to trade and treat the U.S. carrier as a legitimate “target” if it came anywhere close to Iranian waters.
  • Making matters worse, it is clear that the U.S. aims to pin on the Iranian government and military forces blame for attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil tankers over the weekend.
  • U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s remark that “any attack on United States interests or those of [its] allies will be met with unrelenting force” gives the impression that the ground is being prepared by the U.S., aided by Saudi Arabia and Israel, for an escalation.

What should be India’s Response

  • Given the signs of a gathering storm, India must consider not only its own interests in terms of its ties with Iran and with the U.S. and its allies, but also its position as a regional power.
  • The External Affairs Ministry comment that the government would take a decision on Iranian oil imports after the elections appeared to be an attempt to buy time.
  • The truth is that Indian oil importers have already stopped placing orders for Iranian oil in compliance with the U.S. diktat on “zeroing out” imports.
  • India had been importing about 10% of its oil requirements from Iran, and the losses in terms of finding alternative suppliers in the face of rising oil prices are piling up.
  • News reports also indicate that despite a U.S. waiver on the Chabahar port, banks in India and Afghanistan that planned to finance trade through the port are now being restricted by U.S. sanctions.
  • Instead of being a mute spectator to the crisis that is building for India’s energy bill as well as for regional stability, New Delhi must take the challenge head-on.
  • One immediate priority is to work more closely with European countries in ensuring that Iran does not feel compelled to walk out of the nuclear deal, and to jointly build a sanctions-immune financial infrastructure to facilitate Iranian trade.
  • It is necessary that the countries affected in the region meet urgently, as well as unitedly express concerns over a possible U.S.-Iran clash.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] Gulf warningMains Onlyop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Us Iran tensions might disturb peace in middle east.


Tehran’s decision to stop adhering to some of the provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with the international community is a sharp reminder that dark clouds are gathering again in the Middle East.

Reasons for Tehran’s Decision

  • When US President Donald Trump pulled out last year from the nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, Iran had the option of walking out too. It did not.
  • Tehran had hoped that the European powers as well as Russia and China might help limit the effects of America’s renewed hostility.
  • The Europeans had criticised the US withdrawal, affirmed that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear agreement, and offered to sustain economic engagement with Iran if Tehran stayed true to the deal. China and Russia had criticised the US decision as unilateral and arbitrary.
  • But Iran’s hopes of exploiting the cracks among the great powers are looking increasingly unreal as the actions of Europe, China and Russia have not matched their words. Iran’s “strategic patience”, in the words of President Hassan Rouhani, is wearing thin.

Hostile Actions by USA

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is ratcheting up pressure on Iran.

1.Terming Iran’s armed forces as terrorist Organisation –

  • Last month, it designated the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation.
  • This is the first time the US has labeled the entire wing of a country’s armed force as “terrorist”.

2.Dispatching Aircraft towards Gulf

  • Citing an unexplained threat from Iran, President Trump has despatched the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group towards the Gulf.

3. Sanctions impacting Iran -Meanwhile, US sanctions aimed at choking Iran’s oil exports and squeezing its finances are beginning to bite.

Tehran’s apprehensions

  • Tehran has no reason to believe that the Trump Administration is open to a reasonable compromise that might include a revised nuclear deal to address any real US concerns.
  • It is no secret in Washington that regime change in Tehran is the Trump Administration’s real goal.

Implications of this decision

  • Iran’s partial withdrawal from the nuclear agreement is aimed at convincing Washington’s allies in Europe as well as its competitors that time is running out to save the deal.
  • Tehran is conscious of Europe’s difficulty in effecting a real break with the US in the Middle East.
  • It also knows that China and Russia have their own fish to fry with America and are unlikely to challenge the US on Iran.
  • Worse still, Moscow and Beijing could use Tehran as a lever in their bargaining with the US.
  • Iran might lack real friends among the major powers, but it has the capacity to bring the house down in the Middle East.
  • With armed proxies across the region, Tehran is well placed to launch an asymmetric war against the US and its allies.
  • Iran has also threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz — the strategic waterway that moves oil from inside the Gulf to the rest of the world — if its own oil sales remain blocked.
  • With neither side ready to step back, the conflict between the US and Iran might well be headed for a costly showdown.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

US names Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist groupPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FTO

Mains level : US-Iran turmoil and its impact on India

  • US has decided to name Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • In retaliatory action, Tehran named the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organisation and the US government as a sponsor of terror.

What is an FTO?

Section 219 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act authorises the Secretary of State to “designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organization if it finds that:

  • the organization is a foreign organization;
  • the organization engages in terrorist activity or terrorism or
  • threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the US

The List

  • 67 terrorist organisations currently figure as FTOs, including Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and its regional branches, the Islamic State and its regional operations, Jundallah, Boko Haram, and the Colombian FARC.
  • Also on the list are several organisations based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which directly threaten India, such as the JeM, LeT, Hizb ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
  • The Indian Mujahideen, LTTE, and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh are also on the list.

Why this move?

  • The new designation makes it easier to prosecute EU or other companies or individuals that do business with Iran.
  • US accused Iranian regime for use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft makes it fundamentally different from any other government.
  • Their involvement in Iran’s banking and shipping industries could complicate matters with U.S. allies including the European Union.
  • The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole.

About IRGC

  • The IRGC was set up in 1979 after Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution as an ideologically-driven branch of the armed forces of Iran.
  • It aims to protect the newly established Islamic system from hostile foreign powers and internal dissensions.
  • The IRGC is today a 125,000-strong force with ground, naval, and air wings, tasked with internal and border security, law enforcement, and protection of Iran’s missiles.
  • The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] The regional great gameop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: International relations| India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India and its neighborhood- relations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the crystallisation of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia and India-Iran axes that might set off ripples in the region, in a brief manner.


  • Two neighbouring countries, Iran and Pakistan, which were trying to remain close, are today moving in opposite directions.
  • This movement is partly pushed by circumstances, evident from the way India’s presence in Chabahar has been recently upgraded and the way Saudi Arabia is increasing its presence in Pakistan.

Significance of Chabahar for India

  • Last month, India formally took over operations of the Chabahar port.
  • India Ports Global company, a joint venture between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and Deendayal Port Trust, Kandla, is now functioning from its offices at Shaheed Behesti Port Chabahar.
  • For New Delhi, Chabahar is important to reach out to Afghanistan.
  • In 2017, when Afghanistan was hit by drought, India already shipped 1.1 million tonnes of wheat through Chabahar.
  • Last month, senior bureaucrats of all the three countries (India, Iran and Afghanistan) held the first meeting for the implementation of the trilateral Chabahar agreement signed in 2016.
  • They agreed on the routes for trade and transit corridors between the three countries and finalised the protocol to “harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters”.


  • This achievement has something to do with the crisis affecting Iran in the wake of the new round of American sanctions.
  • New Delhi could persuade Washington to exempt Chabahar from these sanctions because, according to the US, this port “relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development of Afghanistan.
  • These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief”.

India’s importance for Iran

  • Iran needs India more than before in order to resist American attempts at isolating it.
  • Ironically, Tehran benefits from good relations between New Delhi and Washington, which also made the waiving of sanctions on oil trade possible.
  • In late 2018, America granted waivers to eight countries including India for importing oil from Iran till March 2019.
  • New Delhi lobbied for such an exemption as Iran is India’s number one oil provider.
  • Iran’s isolation may further increase India’s leverage in the near future as Tehran will be forced to finalise deals for using local currencies in trade.
  • India and Iran are already working on a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) that would reduce tariffs on 80 to 100 products.

Pakistan relationship with Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • Pakistan has similarly been pushed towards Saudi Arabia by the compulsions of financial circumstances.
  • Pakistan needs to raise money from abroad to make both ends meet and once again the most generous donors are Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • In the past few months, the dependence of Pakistan vis-à-vis these two countries has significantly increased because of the aid both countries agreed to give to Islamabad and because of industrial, strategic investments.
  • Pakistan has got the assurance from the Saudis that they would help the country to address its balance-of-payment crisis by offering a $6 billion package.
  • While the UAE committed themselves to give $3 billion.
  • Besides, Riyadh decided to invest $10 billion in a refinery in Gwadar.
  • For Riyadh, this move precludes any Iranian presence in Gwadar, contrary to some of the plans talked about in Tehran and Islamabad.

Pakistan relationship with Iran

  • Pakistan and Iran tried hard to ameliorate their collaboration till recently.
  • Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General had paid an important visit to Tehran in October 2017.
  • The Iranians had been responsive to what he had to offer (some cooperation on missile technology was discussed) and expressed interest in being part of the RBI by branching the gas pipeline they have already built on CPEC at Gwadar and to connect Chabahar to CPEC too.
  • In March 2018 the visit of the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs had enabled the two countries to reiterate their interest in collaboration.
  • That was in continuation to the decision made in 2015 not to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen and the attempts Islamabad had made to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  • While Pakistan will continue to try not to take sides, a significant upgrading of its relations with Iran may become more difficult — saying “no” to Saudi Arabia may also become more difficult.

India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • The Modi government had invested in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the first four years of his term which is evident from the invitation to Mohammed bin Zayed as guest of honour on Independence Day in January 2017.
  • And at a time when India expected massive investments from the UAE which is evident from the Indian PM’s visit to Riyadh in July 2018.
  • Modi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud then agreed to sign five MoUs regarding “exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes amid the spread of Islamic State and threats from groups in Af-Pak region”.
  • Such collaboration may become more elusive if Saudi Arabia is even more strategically embedded in Pakistan and if both countries become more interdependent.

Implications of this dynamic are particularly negative for Pakistan

  • Iran will not support Baloch separatists since it is not in its interest to promote Baloch nationalism in its own frontiers.
  • But it can play in Afghanistan a role that will not be to the liking of Islamabad since each country is now harbouring a different sections of the Taliban.
  • This issue has gained momentum again with the announcement of American withdrawal by Trump and the beginning of negotiations in Doha.

Continuation of the dynamic described above depends upon several factors

  • In March, the US may ask India to stop importing oil from Iran and Tehran’s goodwill vis-à-vis New Delhi may then turn out to be more tactical than strategic.
  • Similarly, Pakistan-Saudi Arabia equations may not remain as smooth if the latter (and the UAE) seeks to play a major role in Afghanistan-related negotiations at the expense of Pakistan.


  • While the situation remains fluid, the present trends may eventually result in the crystallisation of two axes, bringing Pakistan closer to Saudi Arabia and Iran closer to India and this new regional game.
  • This evolution will foster the Arabisation (or Wahabisation) of Islam in Pakistan.
  • It may also relaunch sectarian tensions in the region under the aegis of foreign countries.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Iran proposes new regional forum for GulfIOCR


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GCC, Persian Gulf Regional Dialogue Forum

Mains level: Prospects of Gulf Politics in Iranian and Saudi Sphere


  • In a diplomatic initiative to address the lingering conflicts and mistrust in the Gulf region, Iran has proposed a new platform for regional peace building.
  • The proposal is among the set of fresh initiatives that Iran has taken in recent months that also included Tehran connecting with the Taliban for peace talks.

Why such move?

  1. The announcement of Persian Gulf Regional Dialogue Forum is significant as it comes in the wake of continued erosion of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
  2. The GCC in the recent years has been divided between the Iranian and the Saudi spheres.
  3. The new forum could focus on promotion of peace and prosperity in the region.

What Iran expects from this forum?

  1. The effectiveness of such a forum in dealing with threats like terrorism and extremism has left the countries of the region in a state of continuous state of insecurity
  2. Admission to such a forum should be based on accepting generally-recognised principles and shared objectives, notably respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of all states.
  3. The forum could connect people of various member countries cutting across all traditional boundaries.
  4. During the Raisina Dialogue, Iran said such a forum should offer membership to countries based on a set of general principles to address real issues that affect people of the region and the world.
  5. These measures could include freedom of navigation, assurance of free flow of energy and other resources and protection of the fragile marine ecology of the Gulf.


Gulf Cooperation Council

International Org. | Part 8 | Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] Iran can’t issue threats to seek India’s helpop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Sanctions on Iran and its impact on India



  1. As pressure mounts on India to take a re-look at its energy ties with Iran, the debate has taken a predictable turn, one which assesses India-Iran relations through the prism of the US.
  2. India has been steadfast in its opposition to the collapse of the JCPOA and is working with Europe and China to salvage the deal.
  3. At the same time, India continues to look at the possibility of being exempted from the US sanctions. The US has indicated that waivers could be given if there was significant reduction in oil imports from Iran.

India’s stakes in Iran are quite limited

  1. Iran is indeed India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but if push comes to shove, it can be replaced by other sources as the volume is manageable.
  2. The larger economic relationship is nothing much to write about, especially when compared to burgeoning trade ties with the Arab Gulf states.

Iran’s hype

  1. The suggestions by Iranian officials that India could lose “privileges” and revert back to dollar-denominated trade could have been avoided.
  2. Though it was later clarified that Iran will do its best to ensure security of oil supply to India through offering various flexibility measures, which facilitates our bilateral trade in particular Indian export to Iran.
  3. India should not bother much about Iranian oil if Tehran continues to threaten New Delhi about certain nominal “privileges”.

Chabahar Port makes India bother

  1. New Delhi certainly remains keen on the Chabahar Port and has spent significant diplomatic and political capital on the project.
  2. The port is expected to be operational by the end of 2018, with New Delhi committed to developing a free trade area around the port, and finally completing the loop with a $1.6 billion railway line to Zahedan.
  3. As underlined by former foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, it was Iran which was responsible for causing delays in the execution of the Chabahar project.

Bringing threats onboard to Chabahar

  1. Iran has not only suggested that China would be part of the Chabahar project, but has also dangled the possibility of Pakistan joining the project at some future date.
  2. In theory, Sino-Indian cooperation or a wider regional cooperative framework would be an excellent idea.
  3. But to talk of India’s two main adversaries, while asking India to continue to invest in the project certainly won’t make it very enticing to New Delhi.

Regional Security at stake

  1. On Afghanistan and regional security, there are growing divergences between India and Iran. Much like the Taliban, Iran wants to see foreign forces leave.
  2. Tehran has been providing military support to the Taliban in Afghanistan for some time now, but this engagement has reached new heights more recently.
  3. Recent reports suggest that hundreds of Taliban fighters are being trained by Special Forces at Iran’s military academies as part of a significant escalation of support for the insurgents.
  4. Iran has also reportedly sent Afghans to fight for its ally, Assad, in Syria. US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal further incentivises Iran to enhance its support to the Taliban.
  5. Emboldened by their experience in Syria, Iran and Russia are also working closely in Afghanistan to challenge the US and, this primarily means, supporting the Taliban with greater vigour.

Way Forward

  1. The Indian strategic community should resist the temptation of making this debate about India resisting or buckling under American pressure.
  2. As a self-confident rising power, this debate should essentially be about Indian strategic priorities.
  3. If India has to move beyond symbolism in its ties with Iran, Iran has to do the same.
  4. Challenging Indian vital interests even as it asks for New Delhi’s help is surely not the best way forward.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Iran becomes India’s No. 2 oil supplierPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Sactions on Iran and its impact on India

Surge in oil imports from Iran

  1. Iran was the second-biggest oil supplier to Indian state refiners between April and June
  2. India is Iran’s top oil client after China

Import curbs last year

  1. State refiners, accounting for about 60% of India’s 5 million bpd refining capacity, had curbed imports from Iran last year
  2. This was done in protest against Tehran’s move to grant development rights for the giant Farzad B gas field to other parties

Why this surge now?

  1. Iran has offered almost free shipping and extended credit period on oil sales

Impact of sanctions on Iran

  1. India and other major buyers of Iranian oil are under pressure to cut imports from the country after Washington in May withdrew from a 2005 nuclear deal with Tehran and decided to reimpose sanctions on the OPEC member
  2. The first set of sanctions will take effect on August 6 and the rest, notably in the petroleum sector, following a 180-day ”wind-down period” ending November 4
  3. This might force India to look for other alternatives which may result in increased oil prices
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

5 ways India could be affected by U.S. decision to pull out of Iran nuclear deal


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Chabahar, INSTC, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, “2+2” dialogue

Mains level: Changing dynamics of US international policies and its impact on India

The USA pulls out of Iran nuclear deal

  1. U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
  2. The deal itself won’t be scrapped as long as Iran and the other signatories: U.K., France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union remain committed to it

Impact on India

India could face the impact of the U.S. decision on the deal as well as instituting the “highest level of economic sanctions” in several ways:

  1. Oil prices
  • Iran is presently India’s third biggest supplier (after Iraq and Saudi Arabia), and any increase in prices will hit both inflation levels as well as the Indian Rupee
  • Non-oil trade with Iran may not be impacted as much

2. Chabahar

  • India’s moves over the last few years to develop berths at the Shahid Beheshti port in Chabahar was a key part of its plans to circumvent Pakistan’s blocks on trade with Afghanistan
  • The new U.S. sanctions could slow or even bring those plans to a halt depending on how strictly they are implemented


  • India has been a founder of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) since it was ratified in 2002
  • It starts from Iran and aims to cut right across Central Asia to Russia over a 7,200-km multi-mode network
  • Plans for INSTC sped up after the JCPOA was signed in 2015 and sanctions on Iran were lifted
  • New U.S. sanctions will affect these plans immediately

4. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

  • India joined the SCO along with Pakistan last year, and both will be formally admitted in June 201
  • This year, Chinese officials say they will consider inducting Iran into the 8-member Eurasian security organization
  • If the proposal is accepted by the SCO which is led by China and Russia, India will become a member of a bloc that will be seen as anti-American
  • It will also run counter to some of the government’s other initiatives, for eg. the Indo-Pacific quadrilateral with the U.S., Australia, and Japan
  • The move may also rile other adversaries of Iran, like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel

5. Rules-based order

  • India has long been a proponent of a “rules-based order” that depends on multilateral consensus and an adherence to commitments made by countries on the international stage
  • By walking out of the JCPOA that was signed by the Obama administration, the U.S. government has overturned the precept that such international agreements are made by “States” not just with prevailing governments or regimes
  • This could also impact all agreements India is negotiating both bilaterally and multilaterally with the U.S., and the government will have to choose its future course factoring in the new U.S. behavior
  • New Delhi will have to consider a new understanding of its ties with Washington in this context, and some of this understanding may be built during the first “2+2” dialogue between Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries to be scheduled in the next few weeks in Washington
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

[op-ed snap] How Chabahar Port could bring India and its partners a new springop-ed snap

Image Source
Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Prelims level: INSTC; Chabahar Port

Mains level: Significance of Chabahar Port for India and Steps Taken in this regard.

  1. Chabahar Port, with first phase inaugurated on Sunday, has been jointly developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.
  2. India, Iran and Afghanistan are committed to developing the port to handle a cargo of 80 million tonnes, present capacity is just 2.5 million tonnes.
  3. India sent its first consignment of 1.1 lakh tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan through the Chabahar Port on October 29 this year.
  4. Chabahar, which is located 72 kilometres west of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, holds immense strategic and economic significance for India.
International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
  1. To make Chabahar a commercially and strategically viable option, Chabahar project needs to be integrated with INSTC.
  2. India has constructed a 218 km-long (140 mile-long) road from Delaram in western Afghanistan to Zaranj on the Iran-Afghan border.
Strategic Significance
  1. Viable gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
  2. Routes beyond the existing ones would provide a major impetus to Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction efforts.
  3. Many in Delhi view this as one of India’s projects to counter China’s BRI.
Economic Significance
  1. The Chabahar route plus INSTC could boost trade to a total of US$ 170 billion from India to Eurasia
  1. The new US administration’s attitude towards Iran has complicated the matters.
  2. New Delhi has been cautious.


International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
1.Initiated in 2000 by Russia, India and Iran, it is a multi-modal transportation route
3. It links the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and onward to northern Europe via St Petersburg in Russia.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Chabahar port ready, next stage for India

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Project(Read the attached stories)

Mains level: The port is strategically and economically important for India


Inauguration of First Phase of the Chabahar Port Project

  1. The building of Phase 1 of the Chabahar port has been completed by the Iranian side,
  2. President of Iran will inaugurate the port with all regional beneficiaries and neighbouring countries
  3. Benefits: It will enhance trade in the region
  4. With a final aim to connect not just to Afghanistan via rail but also to the 7,200-km International North-South Transport Corridor to Russia

Now it is India’s turn

  1. The inauguration of the port will effectively pave the way for India to carry forward the next phase of construction and development of two berths for its use, particularly for trade with Afghanistan
  2. Next, the government will develop a free-trade area around the port, and finally will complete the loop with a $1.6-billion railway line to Zahedan
  3. India has committed $500 million to the port project
  4. India has already completed the Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan, which would facilitate the trade to Kabul and eventually beyond to Central
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

U.S. ploy against Iran: envoy


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Chabahar port, Iran (geographical features, countries surrounding), India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement

Mains level: India-Iran relationship over years

Iran envoy lashes out at the US

  1. Iranian Ambassador said that U.S. was trying to ensure that India reduced oil imports from his country
  2. It is working to deprive Tehran of the Indian energy market
  3. This is after the U.S. announcement of a tougher line on Iran, even imposition of possible new sanctions

Change in trade stats

  1. India has cut its oil imports from Iran by approximately 20% in 2017, though its global imports have risen by 5.4%
  2. The Petroleum Ministry says India has been trying to “diversify” its imports so as to get more competitive rates
  3. One major development is India’s decision to import its first shipment of crude oil from the U.S., giving rise to speculation that New Delhi’s new policy will come at the cost of imports from Iran

Effect on India-Iran relations

  1. He said that U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy shift would not affect the India-Iran relationship
  2. Development of the Chabahar port project will remain on track

Other projects

  1. The India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral agreement for Chabahar should be ratified by the Iranian parliament in the next few months
  2. India committed about $1.6 billion to build the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line, which will facilitate trade to Afghanistan along with Chabahar port
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Deal on Iran gas field may be sealed by October

  1. Context: India’s Farzad-B gas project by a consortium of Indian companies led by ONGC Videsh
  2. Farzad-B gas project: A common project by Iran and India to develop the Farzad-B field
  3. It is discovered in 2012 and estimated to have 21.68 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves
  4. ONGC Videsh: The overseas arm of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India to develop Chahbahar port

  1. Context: A new bilateral agreement between Iran and India was signed during PM’s visit to Iran
  2. Chabahar: To develop and use the port of Chahbahar to access Central Asia and Afghanistan
  3. It is 1st such agreement & will provide India the right to develop and operate two terminals and five berths
  4. This is along with multipurpose cargo handling capacities in the port of Chahbahar for 10 years
  5. Other: In all, 11 agreements were signed by India and Iran, covering culture, finance and conservation
  6. Also the agreement between IPGPL (India Ports Global Private Limited) and Arya Banader of Iran was signed
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Immense opportunities after lifting of sanctions, says Modi

  1. Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran (1st Indian PM to visit Iran in 15 years)
  2. PM: Lifting of international sanctions on Iran has opened up immense opportunities
  3. India is looking forward to expanding cooperation with Iran in sectors such as trade, investment, infrastructure and energy
  4. Chabahar port: Will provide wider connectivity
  5. Doubling oil imports: India is looking at doubling oil imports from Iran which, a few years back, was second-biggest oil supplier
  6. Farzad-B gas field: Going beyond the buyer-seller relationship to being genuine partners in the field of energy
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Iran is India’s reliable partner, says Rouhani

  1. Context: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Iran
  2. Rouhani: Iran can be a reliable partner for India’s energy needs
  3. Chabahar port: A defining partnership which has the potential of connecting the entire region
  4. India: Has been eyeing deeper energy ties with Iran following lifting of nuclear sanctions
  5. India has already lined up $20 billion as investment in the oil and gas and petrochemical and fertilizer sectors there
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India-Iran will try to resolve Chabahar Port issue at foreign office consultation

The officials representing India and Iran will attempt to resolve contentious issues related to the proposed Chabahar Port in Iran at foreign office consultation.

  1. The officials attributed the delays to Iran changing terms and conditions for the port, and India seeking a better deal after initially giving in.
  2. The discussions now centre on resolving conditions that both sides consider each other to be imposing.
  3. The consultation will also take up the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) project linking India with Central Asia and other countries.
  4. It will also consider regional and international issues such as the rise of the Sunni militant IS and peace talks in Afghanistan.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Iran sanctions end: Cheaper oil, more trade opportunities for India

“We can sign commercial deals with Iran since payment is no longer an issue”.

  1. The lifting of the sanctions on Iran will benefit India with lower oil prices and more opportunities for trade.
  2. Iran will gradually ramp up production by 0.5 million barrels per day over the next six months.
  3. The lifting of sanctions also removes an important hurdle — U.S. pressure to hold off on the deal — in the proposed India-Iran gas pipeline
  4. India reportedly owes Iran $6.5 billion for crude oil purchases, the payment of which has so far been held up due to the sanctions.
  5. One of the major construction projects in Iran that India has taken an interest in is the development of the Chabahar Port.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

Government pitches for global north-south corridor

  1. The commerce ministry has pitched for popularisation of International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) in a bid to boost trade with former Soviet Union countries, Iran and Russia.
  2. The corridor is an alternative route through Tehran that significantly reduces costs and travel time.
  3. This moves is significant as govt. has adopted a market diversification strategy.
  4. This will help Indian exporters to reduce their dependence on traditional markets in the West.
  5. The ministry also wanted banks and insurance companies to play an active role in boosting traffic through INSTC.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India asks Iran to expedite procedures of Farzad-B gas field

India considers Iran as an important partner and expressed satisfaction at the growing bilateral interaction in diverse area including energy, shipping, ports and railways.

  1. India has emphasised to Iran for early completion of all necessary procedures for its participation in the Farzad-B gas field worth 5 billion US dollars.
  2. India’s request was forwarded by External Affairs Minister to Iranian Minister for Economic Affairs and Finance in Joint Commission Meeting.
  3. Iranian side suggested participation of India’s public and private sectors in development of Chabahar Port and Chabahar Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and in setting up industrial units in it.
  4. India mentioned that Chabahar port will facilitate linking Afghanistan and Central Asia with India which will result in enhanced trade and commerce.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

India welcomes Iran deal, wary of implications

  1. India and Iran have an annual bilateral trade of about $14 billion with high balance of trade problem due to sanctions in past.
  2. Benefits for India could be cheaper oil imports from Iran and access to Afghanistan through Chabahar port.
  3. Worries are that it could affect India-Israel relations, backlash from Saudi Arabia could lead to closer nuclear cooperation with Pak and Iran’s preferential treatment could go to Russia, China, US and Europe.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Iran

How India gains from the Iran N-deal?op-ed snap

  1. The deal could have significant effects on India’s energy needs, as it will allow imports of oil and natural gas from Iran.
  2. Analysts point that oil prices would drop further as a permanent agreement would be reached with Iran, as Iran would then increase its oil production.
  3. A fall in global oil prices would be good news for India. Why?

A $1/barrel fall in international crude oil prices is likely to reduce India’s net import bill by $0.9 billion a year.


What else?

  • The Farzad-B gas field project – Discovered by OVL in 2008, might receive a fillip because India could not pursue the project aggressively until now, due to US sanctions against Iran.
  • Gas Pipeline – Between India and Iran.
  • Chabahar Port Route – The peace agreement will lead Indian govt. to push for completion of Chabahar port route to Afghanistan, a gateway to Central Asia.

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