Iran and India, Two Big Powers in West Asia

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Hassan Nourian
West Asia Analyst

According to the latest reports by Indian and Iranian media, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party who replaced Manmohan Singh from the Congress Party in 2014, will pay an official visit to Iran this week. During general elections in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party managed to emerge as the first party in 20 years, which had won a majority without forming a coalition with other parties and gained 287 out of 543 parliamentary seats in the Lok Sabha, which is the lower house of India's bicameral parliament.

Narendra Modi, who was previously chief minister of India’s Gujarat province and a promoter of Buddhism, is known as a pragmatic politician and since his rise to power, he has made great efforts toward economic development of India through bilateral and multilateral meetings with other countries’ officials. Now, during his visit to Iran, Modi is expected to sign a number of important economic agreements, including on promoting preferential trade, abrogation of double taxation, and supporting the two countries’ investors and businesspeople with Iranian officials. Tehran and New Delhi are also expected to discuss and sign agreements to facilitate cultural ties, trade exchanges and travels by the two countries’ nationals.

However, the issue, which has drawn a lot of attention from politicians and political analysts is India’s investment in Iran's Chabahar port as well as projected construction of a petrochemical plant, including for production of urea fertilizer, in that part of Iran, which for many years has not gone past slogans. Now, there is hope that following conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the visit by India’s highest executive official and his accompanying delegation to Chabahar will be a turning point in expediting the aforesaid project. India’s return to Iran's Farzad B gas field is another important issue, which is expected to be discussed and agreed upon in this trip and enter the implementation phase.

Indians, who consider themselves among the world’s emerging powers and a member of the BRICS group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), have been experiencing an economic growth rate of 5-7 percent for years. According to a report by the World Bank, the country’s gross domestic product will hit eight percent by 2017, which will be very promising for rulers of this country with a population of 1.2 billion. India is now the world’s fourth biggest energy consumer and will soon rank the third in this regard in view of rapid growth of its industries. Iran, meanwhile, enjoys a good positon in supplying India’s needed energy and crude oil and export of Iran's crude to India never stopped even under conditions of sanctions against Iran's energy sector, though the export figure sometimes declined.

In terms of its Muslim population, India is very important to the Islamic Republic of Iran. More than 200 million Muslims live in India, and over 35 million of them are Shia Muslims. Indian Muslims love Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)’s Household and show great respect for Shias so that the anniversary of Imam Hossein (PBUH)’s martyrdom in the lunar month of Moharram is an official holiday in India’s annual calendar. This point shows the respect that India’s constitution has for beliefs and values of other religions and denominations in this country. Developments in Asia and the Middle East have always affected other countries in West Asia, including India, and recent threats by the Daesh terrorist group against India’s national security have aroused Indians’ sensitivity. Therefore, security officials in India are trying to immunize their country against sectarianism, extremism and terrorism and the common position taken by India and the Islamic Republic of Iran on fighting terrorism and extremism can be of great help in blocking inhuman behaviors of terrorists across the region.

During recent years, Daesh has been recruiting Indian youths through the social media and over the Internet, which has caused Indian officials to exert more control on the social media and prevent recruitment of Indian youths by terrorist groups. A proposal for cooperation between Iran and India in fighting extremism and terrorism can be among important issues facing the two countries’ officials. More than nine million Indians are working in various counties along the southern rim of the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and this can easily turn into the Indian government’s Achilles’ heel and a vulnerability for the Indian government. This is true as Indian youths working in these countries may be easily lured by religious radicals and extremists and foster sectarianism and extremism in the peaceful society of India in the future.

All told, there are many grounds for economic, political, security, investment and trade cooperation between the two sides, which can be discussed during this visit and decisions can be made by the highest political officials of the two countries in this regard to open a new chapter in bilateral relations between Tehran and New Delhi.

Iran and India are two important and effective countries in West Asia with common bilateral, regional and international interests and more proximity between positions and viewpoints of these two major Asian powers can have many benefits for the international system under the current hectic political conditions in the world.

Key WordsIran, India, Big Powers, West Asia, Narendra Modi, New Delhi, Chabahar Port, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Muslim Population, Daesh, Middle East, Extremism, Terrorism, Nourian

Source: Etemad Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: The Hindu

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