Indian diplomatic challenge – Iran vs. the US, and the pressure on the Government

The Indian Government would have wanted to roll back the dice of time a few years back on many fronts; there was no global recession, growth rate was fine, and there was only the nightmare of Pakistan to deal with. By now, even Manmohan Singh has stopped talking about a romantic relationship with Pakistan, with the realization that the country will keep on implementing policies that are against India, and given its nuclear weapons, no threat will actually make an impact. The relationship of India with both Iran and Israel was fine, with defense and security linkages between India and the Jewish state setting the ground for increased economic partnerships.
The collision between the 2 Asian countries has only been increasing over the past several years, and so far India has stayed out of the fray. The tension between these 2 countries has been stoked by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has criticized the Israeli state at frequent intervals and supported Hezbollah and Hamas (who are deadly enemies of Israel). In addition, the attempts by Iran to attain nuclear enabled status have drawn international condemnation and a huge chorus of attempts by Western countries, primarily driven by the United States.

Israel of course maintains its superiority in the region through superior military efforts and ensuring that it alone has nuclear power in the region (it has already attacked nuclear reactors in Syria and Iraq over the years); hence, there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the policies promoted by Israel and backed by the United States. But, then, letting Iran move towards getting nuclear power will upset all the power politics in the region – because of the vehement Shia-Sunni conflict. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, then nothing will stop the efforts of Saudi Arabia to get a similar bomb, and with its money power, Saudi Arabia will there pretty quickly. It will also be supported by other countries in the region such as Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, etc.
For some time now, India has been staying out of this entire discussion, but is slowly getting dragged into taking choices. India has a strong Shia community, to whom Iran is the prime country, and with the current Government and the need for political parties to ensure that they do not go against the Muslim community, there is a strong reason to not appear that policies are against Iran. Further, economically, India gets around 10-15% of its oil from Iran and is loath to try to diversify too much from this source (even though Saudi Arabia is willing to provide India the same amount of oil it gets from Iran). In addition, the sanctions against Iran are not yet mandated by the UN Security Council, and without this mandate, it is difficult for Indian Governments to take part in sanctions.
Strategically as well, India has huge stakes in Afghanistan, not only because of the security situation, but also because of Afghanistan being a gateway to the Central Asian republics. But since Afghanistan is a land-locked country, there are 2 access points that are convenient – Pakistan will never let India have any advantage in terms of access to Afghanistan, and Iran is the only other access point that can work for India. But, given the risk that India has in getting another nuclear neighbor in the area, it cannot support any Iranian nuclear weapon.
Also, there is a strong push by the United States to put pressure on Iran, including sanctions on any commercial entity that has dealings with Iran, and this is meant to crimp Iran’s oil industry, through shipping, infrastructure, etc. This has also caused huge problems to Indian efforts to pay for Iranian oil, and the country has to search for different routing mechanism on how to pay for this oil. And then the explosion in Delhi, where there was an attack on an Israeli diplomat, which was immediately blamed on Iran (compounded by such attacks in Georgia and in Thailand). Now, Indian Government agencies are trying to figure out the best way to proceed, without seeming to blame Iran. However, the problem will intensify if the probe does reveal something connecting Iran to this; and since Israel will immediately tom-tom this news the world over.

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