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Insights EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Ties Reset

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, Regional forums, India-Iran relations, Chabhar port, IAEA.
  • Mains GS Paper II: Significance of Iran for India, India and its neighborhood relations.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Iranian Foreign Minister’s first visit to India this week has many implications for bilateral relations, but it is the multilateral context and timing that standout.
  • This is the first visit by a member of the 57member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation(OIC), which took offense to comments made in India on the Prophet Mohammad.
  • India and Iran have “surveyed” the possibilities of settling trade transactions in rupee or through barter system, along with discussing a need to establish a banking mechanism.
  • India and Iran also agreed to “precipitate” investment in the Chabahar Port which is being developed with the help of India,

 

                   

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context          

India-Iran Relations:

  • Bilateral relations between India and Iran span millennia marked by meaningful interactions.
  • Both countries shared borders until 1947 and share several common features in their language, culture and traditions.
  • The diplomatic links were established on 15th March 1950, when both countries signed a Treaty of Friendship and Perpetual Peace.
  • However, Iran’s joining of the Baghdad pact in 1954 and the Cold War politics prevented both countries from having closer relations until the 1990s.
  • Islamic Revolution of 1979, hostage of US diplomats, Iran-Iraq War and Tehran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas among others resulted in a range of political and economic sanctions, leading to Iran being isolated at a global level.
  • In the 1990s, both countries’ interests converged around energy, Central Asia and security, mostly around the Pakistan-Afghan region.
  • This resulted in the signing of ‘The Delhi Declaration’, which provided the vision of the countries’ defense and strategic partnership and “Tehran Declaration”, which set forth the areas of possible cooperation.

 

Areas of Cooperation with Iran:

Energy

  • India-Iran commercial ties have traditionally been dominated by Indian imports of Iranian crude oil.
  • Iran has been one of the top sources of crude oil for India. India can decrease the dependence on Saudi for oil and Iran oil is comparatively cheap
  • Indian firms are willing to invest in Iran’s energy sector and set up petrochemical and fertilizer plants in the Chabahar Special Economic Zone.
  • Iran has the world’s second-largest reserves of natural gas, yet it is not a major exporter.
  • The proposed Iran-Oman-India undersea gas pipeline can help India move towards clean energy.

 

Connectivity

  • Infrastructure projects like Chabahar Port, International North South Transport Corridor will help India to bypass the overland route through Pakistan and help in better trade relations with West and Central Asia.
    Chabahar Port:
  • It lies in the Persian Gulf in Iran and will help India in expanding its maritime commerce in the region.
  • It will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia using a sea-land route.

 

International North South Corridor

  • A ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia
  • It aims to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian
  • Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg.
  • The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan.

 

Terrorism/Security

  • India and Iran both face the threat of terrorism by outfits like Al-Qaeda amd Islamic State.

 

Challenges:

  • Iran’s Proximity to China
    • Iran is a part of China’s ambitious Belt And Road initiative.
    • This might come in conflict with India’s interests in Iran ,considering the fact that India has been vociferously opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • US Sanctions on Iran
    • With the US pulling out of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and imposing sanctions on Iran , it was difficult for India to continue importing Oil and Natural gas from Iran and also to operationalise the Chabahar Port  in a full fledged manner.
  • Trustworthiness of Iran as a reliable partner
    • Iran, despite displaying warmth towards India, has been a cantankerous partner,often acting against the interests of India.
    • Some such instances are:
      • On the issue of Kashmir, Iran has been a vocal supporter of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir
      • India’s ONGC Videsh Limited played a crucial role in discovering the potential of Farzad B gas fields in Iran in 2008 .
      • Despite 10 years of discovery ,Iran has not given the rights to develop the gas field to ONGC Videsh Limited.
      • Rather it has signed an initial pact with Russia’s Gazprom for the purpose.

 

Significance of Iran:

  • Iran shares a long border with Afghanistan and has close resemblance of ethnic minorities.
  • The original objective of India’s Chabahar project in Iran was to create a direct access to Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
  • This direct access is critical for India in all different scenarios — move supplies to Afghanistan in larger quantities, retain its presence in Afghanistan and carry out covert operations.
  • Iran was the first country among the Organization for Islamic Cooperation(OIC) to mention satisfaction over India’s action after remarks on Prophet Mohammad.

             

Current controversy and its possible impact on India’s international relations:

  • Relationships with these Arab countries might take a hit.
  • India’s image as a religiously tolerant country.
  • Impact on economic relations as calls for boycotting India and Indian products in Gulf countries.
Farzad-B Gas Field

●    It is located in the Persian Gulf (Iran) and the contract for exploration of the field was signed in 2002 by an Indian consortium comprising Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) Videsh, Indian Oil Corporation and Oil India.

●    The contract expired in 2009 after declaration of commerciality of the field, based on the gas discovery.

●    The major dispute between India and Iran was over setting up of two pipelines, and also over money to be quoted on the development plan.

●    Around 75% of the deal was finalized by May 2018, when the USA unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal and announced sanctions on Iran.

●    In January 2020, Iran clarified that it would develop the field on its own and would not like to involve India appropriately at a later stage.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Though IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957 through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
It is based in Vienna.

 

Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC)

●    The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations with a membership of 57 states.

●    It is the collective voice of the Muslim world.

●    It endeavors to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

●    The Organization of the Islamic Conference was established by the First Islamic Summit Conference held in Morocco in September 1969, to marshal the Islamic world after an act of arson at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by a 28-year-old Australian in 1969.
Headquarters: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

 

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA):

●    The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States + Germany).

●    Under the deal, Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

●    Iran also agreed to implement a protocol that would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access its nuclear sites to ensure Iran would not be able to develop nuclear weapons in secret.

●    While the West agreed to lift sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear proliferation, other sanctions addressing alleged abuses of human rights and Iran’s ballistic missile programme remained in place.

●    The US committed to lifting sanctions on oil exports, but continued to restrict financial transactions, which have deterred international trade with Iran.

●    After Trump abandoned the deal and reinstated banking and oil sanctions, Iran ramped up its nuclear programme in earnest, returning to approximately 97% of its pre-2015 nuclear capabilities.

 

Significance of Prophet Mohammad in Islam:

●    Islam believes that God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live accordingly to his law. Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected as prophets of God.

●    Muslims believe that the final prophet was Muhammad.

●    The emergence of Islam is dated from the time of the migration of Muhammad.

●    It is believed the word of God was revealed to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel.

●    Muslims based their laws on their holy book, the Quran, and the Sunnah.

●    The Sunnah is considered to be practical example of Prophet Muhammad.

●    Some of the basic tenets of Islam are- belief in one God, belief in Muhammad as the final prophet, and belief that the life on earth is a period of testing and preparation for the life to come after the judgment day when everyone shall be recompensed by God according to the actions performed.

Way Forward

  • Alternate payment mode: Short term course can be developing alternate mode of payment to Iran and promoting flexibility in investment mode.
  • India and Iran are looking to swiftly conclude a preferential trade agreement and a bilateral investment treaty
  • Relaxed visa norms announced by Iran in addition to India’s proposal for Indian businesses to invest in rupees in Iran are all moves in the right direction.
  • India and Iran should work together with other regional players to push the Taliban to adopt a more inclusive regime, while at the same time maintaining a policy of gradual bilateral engagement rooted in realism.
  • India should give its full support for the effective implementation of the JCPOA. Only successful implementation of the JCPOA over a period of time can create the political space for additional negotiations.
  • 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.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

India has a long dream of enrouting into central Asian countries. In the light of this statement, discuss the significance of Iran in fulfilling the Connect Central Asia Policy of India. (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)