Business Today

A Tightrope Walk

How to keep the US happy without offending Iran is the question of the hour for India.
Joe C. Mathew   New Delhi     Print Edition: June 3, 2018
A Tightrope Walk

On May 8, the US announced a unilateral pull-out from a three-year-old nuclear deal with Iran. The fallout was instant - a sudden spurt in crude oil prices and the dollar appreciated against other currencies. Trump had a clear message for all that have strategic or trade relations with Iran: Ignore the US line at one's own peril.

It also has serious implications for India that goes much beyond the $12.5 billion bilateral trade engagement it has with that country. True, as the third largest crude oil source after the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Iran has an important role in keeping our import bill, and hence current account deficit, under check. But the relationship with Iran is not just about oil. India is the development partner of Iran's only deep sea Chabahar port, and a land trade route that begins from Chabahar can go all the way to connect Afghanistan, CIS countries and even Europe by sidelining Pakistan and even China. The trade opportunities and the diplomatic heft such engagements offer are at stake now. Once the US imposes sanctions on Iran, it will expect other countries to restrict their Iran engagements.

India and Iran took 15 years to operationalise the Chabahar partnership. All the while, India has managed to maintain a delicate balance in its relationship with Iran without enraging the US. It needs to do that again. Political will is the need of the hour.

@joecmathew

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