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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightThe rhythm and discord...

The rhythm and discord in foreign policy

Chabahar Port

The long-term agreement signed by India with Iran is an example of how foreign policy can be successful when national interest is placed above external pressures. India has reached a ten-year contract to run the Chabahar Shahid Beheshti Port in Iran. This is the first time that India is taking over the management of a foreign port. Chabahar is located on the southeastern coast of energy-rich Iran. The participation of India in the Chabahar project will significantly boost India's trade relations with Iran. Chabahar opens a major corridor that can deliver merchandise easily to destinations including Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, central Asia and Europe. The new agreement will take India's existing relationship with Iran to a new level in the infrastructure and trade sectors and will be of great benefit not only to both countries but also to the transportation of goods in the region. An advantage from the Chabahar port is that it will open the route to Afghanistan and Central Asia without going through Pakistan. It can also reach Europe via Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia thereby considerably reducing the delay and cost of transportation.

After Shah Pahlavi's regime, which was a US stooge, collapsed in the 1979 popular revolution, Iran has been the bete noir of America. India's relationship with Iran was initiated by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1993. Later, during Vajpayee's tenure, the relationship took concrete shape through the Chabahar agreement. America's insistence that other countries should shape their foreign policy according to its narrow interests has also affected India's relations with Iran. When India cooperated in the construction of Chabahar port, there was an attempt to block it. India did not participate in the sanctions against Iran imposed by some countries and the UN in accordance with US interests, but India joined the port construction considering the country's interest. In 2012, Hillary Clinton, who was the US Secretary of State, tried to scare India away but failed. At the same time, US pressure became an obstacle in reaching a full deal, instead of partial co-operation with Iran. It was after the US eased sanctions on Iran following a nuclear deal with that country that Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Chabahar Agreement in 2016. However, when Donald Trump became president and reimposed full sanctions against Iran in 2018, the deal was thrown into doubt. Some concessions were made to India with the concurrence of America, which however cannot be said to be thanks to India's ingenuity.

America had established a puppet government in occupied Afghanistan. It was to deliver goods and aid to that country that the Iran sanctions were eased. When India became passive under pressure of American interests, in 2020 Iran came to a stand that it could implement the Chabahar project alone without waiting for India. When the Taliban government came to put an end to the American presence in Afghanistan, America was no longer in need of giving previous concessions to India. Even under the administration of Joe Biden, the United States is imposing the Iran sanctions on other countries. It is in this situation that India took over the management of Chabahar port with the stance of not giving in anymore. The US is threatening sanctions, but that is unlikely to materialise. First, America's image has been tarnished by the Gaza genocide. Second, China's construction of a port in Pakistan may be making the US change its stand. In India, crony capitalism, which is flourishing under the Modi government, may also have an eye on port construction. Whatever be the circumstances, it is no mean feat to be able to adopt a path that is in the interest of the country, disregarding America's muscle flexing. All the same, it cannot be lost sight of that India is not able to adopt this model of sound foreign policy on many other issues. Recently, the country has heard more than once references that may strain neighborly relations made for temporary gains in election campaign. When the 1974 Indo-Sri Lankan accord was criticised with an aim to vilify the Congress among Tamil voters, it hurt the good relations with Sri Lanka. Blaming the neighboring countries while justifying the Citizenship Act has also become imprudent. That had setbacks even in Bangladesh, which has good relations with India. Foreign policy should not be distorted either in the name of narrow domestic politics or for narrow foreign interests. Let Chabahar be an example.

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TAGS:Editorialforeign policyChabaharIran sanctions
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