The port project in Iran is buffeted by competing geopolitical interests. India may have to rebalance its priorities in the region
Perhaps the first announcement that India had acquiesced to US pressure to reduce oil purchases from Iran by May 2 to zero — when the six-month US waiver to India came to an end — was unusually not made by the Petroleum Ministry in Delhi, but by Indian Ambassador to Washington Harsh Shringla.
Later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in his recent trip to New Delhi, announced how an “assertive” India had stopped buying oil from Iran. In Parliament, though, the government has made contrary noises — and for a reason.
Over the past few years now, India’s relations with Iran were not just limited to purchase of oil. Its financial and diplomatic investments in the Iran’s Oceanic port, Chabahar, allow it to sidestep a recalcitrant Pakistan that does not allow overland access to Afghanistan. More recently, the port also serves as the fulcrum of India’s new Central Asian policy, which is evolving gradually with its membership of Shanghai Cooperation (SCO). Much of India’s ambitions to reclaim the legacy of British Empire, geographically denied for 70 years by the creation of Pakistan, could come to a naught if it succumbs to US policy on Iran — leavened by the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
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