On the days when COVID-19 pandemic has also overshadowed diplomatic shuttles within three days two senior Indian cabinet ministers traveled to Tehran. On the morning of Tuesday, August 9, the plane of Indian Minister of External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, landed in Tehran so that he could make a stopover on his way to Moscow to negotiate with Iranian officials.
The visit of the Indian Minister of External Affairs to Tehran took place only three days after the visit of that country’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on his return from Moscow who preferred to have a stopover in Tehran and discuss regional developments and bilateral relations with his counterparts.
The two trips took place at a time when the region was witnessing several events:
1- Agreement of the UAE government and then Bahrain to normalize relations with the Zionist regime
- Taliban readiness for negotiations with the Afghan government
3- Transmission of news of Iran and China readiness to conclude a long-term strategic cooperation agreement
Although all the three events are bilateral in nature and occur in the Middle East geography at the same time, the Indian government having a strong sense of distinction evaluated the effects of all the three events on its own interests and is now trying to reduce their negative impacts on its side.
First: more than three decades have passed since the beginning of India’s relations with the Israeli regime. During this period, Israel has been able to position itself as one of India’s key partners in the security, political and economic spheres. Today, Israel is a major supplier of knowledge-based warfare to India.
During these years, India maintained its relations with the Zionist regime while taking into account the sensitivities of the Islamic world and Islamic countries. India’s recent history shows that the country, due to historical, cultural and economic reasons, has always sought to maintain friendly relations with Islamic countries, especially those in the Middle East. For this reason, relations with Israel were not defined in Indian foreign policy until the late twentieth century, but world developments in the late twentieth century, especially after the Camp David Accord, encouraged India to establish relations with the Israeli regime and in 1992 their political relations were established.
Moreover, what made India to tolerate the sensitivities of the Islamic world was Pakistan’s position within the complex. Pakistan has always used its influence among Islamic countries and the Organization of Islamic Conference to implement its anti-Indian policies. The differences and long-standing animosity between the two countries is a clear subject matter.
The incumbent government of India, which has come to power with the awakening of Hinduism sentiments, has in recent years enacted or repealed laws that have narrowed the ring for the Muslims, including the people of Kashmir. With the support of the United States, the government of the BJP Party typically organizes its actions quietly in order to achieve its goals of its radical party by taking advantage of the silence or indulgence of this country and even Arab states, and even enjoying the help of the existing differences in the Islamic world.
Indian Efforts to present an image of an independent country
In India’s domestic politics, if today similarities are noticed with the behavior of the Israeli regime, it is not surprising. However, Indian policymakers and politicians have become skilled enough to maintain balance in their relations with rival countries in the region. In 2017, Narendra Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Tel Aviv. Over a period of almost a year, he traveled to Tehran, Riyadh, Tel Aviv, and Abu Dhabi. He also received the country’s highest national award in February 2018 in Abu Dhabi. In the course of all these trips, Prime Minister Modi emphasized strengthening and stability of his country’s relations with the host countries.
In adopting this approach, India wants to present itself as a fully independent country acting on its own demands and aspirations in the international system. Today, as a result of the Zionist regime’s agreement with the UAE and Bahrain, India sees the Middle East divided into two groups, those who oppose and those who agree with these understandings.
India Concerned about Future Developments in Afghanistan
Second: Start of a new round of Taliban talks with the Afghan government, albeit with the US intervention and pressure, paints a bleak picture for India. In the peace process in Afghanistan, many components of the will of regional governments such as Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar functioned in conjunction with the US decisions. Although India’s policy has little to do with these governments, with the exception of Pakistan, presence of a Pakistani element in mapping the political equation in Afghanistan is not to India’s advantage. Especially, if in this peace process the Taliban plays a more prominent role in the political structure of Afghanistan, India will not forget the memories of the years of Taliban rule in Kabul.
Given its historical background, India has sought to balance its relations with Afghanistan in terms of strengthening its relations with South Asia. It is clear that in India’s conflict of interests with Pakistan, Afghanistan sometimes plays a significant role as a counterweight. That is why in the years since the establishment of post-Taliban governments, India has spent relatively high costs to develop Afghanistan’s infrastructure and human resources. Educating trained manpower at the Indian higher education institutions is the product of India’s long-term planning to influence in Afghanistan’s political and administrative structure. Therefore, it is understandable that the Taliban do not show a favorite attitude to India and make its investments not cost-effective.
It is in this confluence that the Indian government seeks to gain a more accurate assessment of the peace process and configuration of Afghanistan’s future political structure from the perspective and viewpoint of the Islamic Republic. Indian politicians, like many other politicians, know how to make room for themselves in the gaps and distances of views of governments.
Reason behind Hasty Visits of Indian Defense and External Affairs Ministers to Iran
Third: Being informed of the agreement of the Islamic Republic of Iran with China for long-term strategic cooperation is another issue of interest and at the same time concern of India.
For years, India has been seeking to establish fields of cooperation with Iran through Iran’s pass way into Central Asia and Russia. These include the North-South International Corridor and the Chabahar-Afghanistan Corridor as well. During the Cold War, India had strategic relations with the Soviet Union. India’s military industry was largely the structure and nature of that country. Although India was not politically socialist in nature, it was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and proximity of its stands to the Socialist Soviet Union was understandable.
During the developments of the last decade of the twentieth century and the collapse of the Soviet Union, India gradually moved towards the capitalist camp and adopted the policy of open economy. India’s economic development led to more products and efforts to find a sales market. In return, the country’s industries are in need of rich energy and huge raw materials in the Central Asian region. Bandar Chabahar and its extension to Afghanistan and beyond are attractive for India in line with the same outlook.
In addition, Chabahar’s proximity to Pakistan’s Gwadar port and China’s massive investment plans, will boost Pakistan’s economy, and will bring about a bitter fruit for India. India is now realizing that laxity in fulfilling its obligations will open the door for rival players.
In this illustrated geometry, if China can have a strong presence in strengthening Iran’s economy and through this establish a link with its investment in Pakistan, China’s South Asian “One Road, One Belt” project will find a meaning beyond South Asia. It brings about a new convergence that narrows the space for India’s presence in the Islamic Republic’s transportation sector.
It is clear that losing a strategic pass way through Iran towards Central Asia and the advantage that the two rivals of India will take from this path will cause heavy costs for this country. Therefore, the Indian Defense and External Affairs Ministers came to Iran in a hurry to discuss with the Iranian authorities their commitment to the undertakings made in the past, and according to Indian analysts, apologize over their past slow works.