Huge leap in Tehran-New Delhi relations
Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani's visit to India was highly important as it provided an opportunity for the two countries to discuss the current regional and international conditions, in addition to holding talks on mutual cooperation.
Rouhani's trip to India came at a time when the US and Israeli officials spare no efforts to leave an adverse impact on Iran's economic development and security by adopting hostile stances toward the JCPOA, expressing disapproval at Iran's missile defense program and criticizing the Middle Eastern state's regional role. This is while, India has currently achieved a better status in US' new National Defense Strategy and, consequently, the country's foreign policy approach. This implies that US officials seek to contain China as an important global rival by fostering their relations with India.
Hosting Iran's president in such circumstances indicates that despite its relations with the US, New Delhi pursues a policy toward the Islamic Republic which is independent of its ties with other states.
In addition to certain international issues, Iran's geopolitical and geoeconomic conditions have given the Middle Eastern state a special status in the foreign policy of major Asian countries, such as India.
The issue of goods transit between Iran and India is of utmost importance within the framework of mutual relations and cooperation. In his 2016 visit to Iran, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a contract to help develop Chabahar Port in southeastern Iran in order to provide his country with land access to Central Asia through Afghanistan. To this end, India has so far invested $85 million in the project. The speedy development of Chabahar Port, which is very important to India, can turn Iran into a transit and regional trade hub.
In addition, since a few years ago, Iran, Russia and India have initiated a project to develop the International North�South Transport Corridor (INSTC) which is being rivaled by the East West Transport Corridor underway by a number of Western countries. The speedy development of INSTC is of utmost importance to New Delhi and Tehran as it enables the former to transfer its goods through the Iranian territory to Central Asia and helps the latter to improve its security. When a country is located along a route transferring energy carriers, guaranteeing its security becomes gravely important to the states lying on both ends of the route, either as importer or exporter.
Therefore, ensuring Iran's security, which possesses the same geopolitical position, is important for India. This will be economic and security-wise in the interest of Iran as well.
Therefore, enhancing cooperation between Iran and India in the field of transportation has considerable security and economic benefits for both sides.
On the other hand, in case in the future, India and Pakistan manage to overcome their bilateral challenges, establishment of peace between the two countries, given Iran's strategic position, will be in the interest of all three states in the light of the uncertainty looming large over the implementation of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, also known as the Peace pipeline. The completion of this project, easily possible through Tehran's improved cooperation with New Delhi, is very important for Iran as despite having abundant gas resources, Tehran has yet failed to make optimum use of them in term of attracting foreign investment, transferring modern technologies and increasing exports.
Furthermore, India is among the major importers of oil from Iran, purchasing over 500,000 barrels of crude per day from the country. This is indicative of India's dire need to Iran's oil. On the other hand, India is capable of investing extensively in Iran's petrochemical sector.
While foreign investors seeking to enter the Iranian market are being intimidated by the US hostile stance against Iran and the JCPOA and threats uttered by Trump to impose new sanctions on Tehran, Indian financers show avid interest to participate in the implementation of Iranian projects.
Iran and India also possess ample capacity to expand their cultural relations. The two states share many historical and cultural commonalities which can be used to highly benefit their people.
Rouhani's speech at the historic Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad was indicative of these cultural commonalities which are required to be strengthened.
Of grave importance to Iran and India would be to continue their cooperation and implement the agreements signed on the sidelines of Rouhani visit to New Delhi to further develop their mutual relations.
*This article, by Afshar Soleymani, Iran's former ambassador to Baku, was first published in Farsi in Iran Newspaper.
Source: Islamic Republic News Agency