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Daily-current-affairs / 07 Nov 2023

Iran-India Relations: Navigating Complex Geopolitical Landscapes : Daily News Analysis


Date : 08/11/2023

Relevance: GS Paper 2 – International Relations

Keywords: Mohenjo Daro, Sindh Valley, CAATA, NATO


As the world progresses into an uncertain future, Iran stands at a pivotal moment in its history, facing intricate challenges that encompass economic hardships, domestic unrest, and intricate international relations. In recent years, Iran's resilience in the face of adversity has been put to the test, as the nation grapples with a volatile economy, widespread internal dissent, and a shifting global geopolitical landscape.

Domestic Unrest: Voices of Dissent and Struggles for Basic Rights

Iran's population, resilient and determined, has expressed its discontent through various waves of protests and dissent. From historical movements against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranians have consistently advocated for democratic reforms and fundamental rights. Recent protests in 2019, dubbed "Bloody November," highlighted economic mismanagement, unemployment, and poverty as key concerns. In 2022, the death of Mahsa Amini sparked nationwide outrage, leading to mass demonstrations against oppressive government policies. The protest, notable for its sustained momentum and broad support, underscored the populace's demand for democracy and an end to authoritarian rule.

India-Iran Relation


The ancient ties between Iran and the Indian subcontinent trace back to the splendid civilization of Mohenjo Daro and the Sindh Valley, flourishing between 2500 and 1500 BC. Visible signs of this relationship are evident in relics, earthenware, and design resemblances. Medieval Persian culture fused with India during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Hindustan periods. Persian was India's court language until British colonization, which led to decreased contact with Iran.

Post-Independence Era:

India and Iran, once border-sharing nations until 1947, established diplomatic relations in 1950. During the Cold War, their relations strained due to differing political interests. While India maintained non-alignment and ties with the Soviet Union, Iran was a Western Bloc member. Despite challenges, cooperation persisted, especially in supporting anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Cooperation and Convergence:

  • Connectivity:
  • With the land route through Pakistan inaccessible, Iran provides an alternate route to Afghanistan and Central Asian republics. It plays a crucial role in the International North South Transit Corridor, facilitating trade and connectivity.

  • International Structure:
  • Both nations aim to revise the global security equation. Iran objects to the UN Security Council structure, while India seeks a permanent seat. Their outsider status in the global structure brings them together in pursuit of shared objectives.

  • Economic:
  • Bilateral trade faced challenges due to sanctions, but India and Iran witnessed significant growth. Despite pressure from Western allies, India's economic growth made Iran's cooperation indispensable. Challenges like sanctions did not halt the growth in bilateral trade, with both countries recognizing the vast potential for economic cooperation.

  • Recent Developments:
  • In 2022, India's exports to Iran increased by 44%, totaling US$1,847 million. Imports from Iran rose by 60%, reaching US$653 million. Notable exports include rice, tea, fruits, and pharmaceuticals, while imports consist of dry fruits, chemicals, and precious stones. India had historically been a major importer of Iranian oil, but procurement ceased in 2023 due to the absence of sanction waivers from the US.

Foreign Trade Policy 2023

India's FTP 2023 focuses on strengthening exports and transforming India into a global trade hub. Emphasizing the use of the Indian rupee in cross-border trade, the policy aims to deepen trade relations, highlighting the rupee's potential as a global currency. These objectives are particularly significant for India-Iran trade.

Diversifying India-Iran Trade Portfolio:

India and Iran aim to diversify their trade beyond agricultural products and fruits. Mutual investment support and expanded cooperation in medicine, pharmaceutical raw materials, and stronger bilateral and multilateral trade agreements are envisioned. Iran's major exports to India include petroleum products, with significant growth in 2022. The trade potential encompasses various products, such as tea, sugar, machinery, and minerals.

Stability and Regional Security:

Addressing regional security concerns, India seeks stability amid animosity with Pakistan. Strengthening ties with Iran offers a strategic advantage, acting as a counterbalance to Pakistan. Both nations collaborate on counterterrorism efforts, aiming to eliminate terrorist activities, gun trafficking, and narcotics trade. India and Iran share common goals in ensuring Afghanistan's stability and reconstruction.

International Terrorism:

India and Iran jointly combat pernicious Sunni Islamist militias and the revival of Wahhabi power in South Asia and the Middle East. A joint committee established in 2003 targets terrorist activities, gun trafficking, and narcotics trade. Both nations collaborated during the Taliban era, with India supporting the reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan.

Geopolitical Ties:

Despite some shared strategic interests, India and Iran differ on key foreign policy issues. India opposes Iran's nuclear program and supported NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, unlike Iran. While differences exist, both nations continue to oppose the Taliban, seeking a stable Afghanistan.

Strategic and Defense Cooperation:

India and Iran pursue strategic and defense cooperation, aiming to upgrade military capabilities. Initiatives include collaboration on army, navy, and air force services. Despite past efforts, cooperation remains limited due to India's alignment with Western powers. India provided assistance for upgrading Iranian military hardware, including submarines, but overall collaboration remains modest.

India-Iran Energy and Infrastructure Collaboration:

Despite challenges such as import restrictions on Iranian oil and reduced Indian involvement in projects like Chabahar port, energy and infrastructure cooperation between India and Iran holds significant potential. Iran's abundant hydrocarbon reserves align with India's energy needs. Iranian oil exports to India experienced remarkable growth in 2022. Opportunities in gas reserves, submarine pipelines, and infrastructure projects like offshore gas fields and petrochemical industries present avenues for collaboration between the two nations.

Key Issues in India-Israel Relation

  • Halt in oil imports from Iran since May 2019 due to U.S. sanctions (CAATA) following the Iran nuclear deal withdrawal, impacting India’s energy security.
  • India's close ties with Israel and Iran's partnership with China through a 25-year strategic agreement, adding complexity to regional dynamics.
  • Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen launching drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both important partners of India.
  • Iran's strong condemnation of India's abrogation of Article 370, granting special status to Kashmir, contributing to regional tensions and diplomatic challenges.
  • Iran's strong support for Hamas in the Israel-Hamas conflict is a cause for concern in India. India maintains good relations with both Israel and Palestine but condemns any form of terrorism, a stance it has reiterated multiple times.

The Way Forward

  • Emphasizing mutual understanding: Both India and Iran should focus on areas of convergence and recognize each other's common interests to foster cooperation.
  • Potential for achievement: India and Iran have significant potential for collaboration and can achieve a lot together.
  • Assertive diplomacy: India's assertive diplomacy, standing by its neighbors and friends while fulfilling national interests, is a positive approach.
  • Vision for engagement: Extending this vision to engage with Iran could lead to substantial cooperation between the two nations.
  • Ripe time for a reset: The current circumstances provide an opportune moment for India and Iran to reset their relationship and explore new avenues of cooperation.


Iran's resilience is tested amid economic challenges and global complexities. Diplomatic skill, internal reforms, and responsive governance are vital. Balancing international engagements, addressing domestic issues, and ensuring economic stability are key. Iran's strategic decisions will shape its future, influencing global relations and its citizens, including ties with India.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam-

  1. Discuss the key challenges faced by India and Iran in their bilateral relations, emphasizing economic cooperation, regional security concerns, and diplomatic strategies. Evaluate the potential impact of these challenges on the stability and prosperity of both nations. (10 marks, 150 words)
  2. Examine Iran's position in South Asian geopolitics, considering its relations with India and other regional players. Analyze the factors influencing Iran's diplomatic decisions and their consequences on regional stability. Discuss potential avenues for cooperation and conflict resolution among the nations involved. ( 15 marks, 250 words)

Source - The Indian Express