Mapping India’s response to Iran’s changing global status and regional influence
Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, Scholar at the Takshashila Institution (2014—2015)
The time is now apt to calculate how Iran’s international standing and its regional influence play out in the medium-to-long term and to prepare New Delhi for the various eventualities. The objective of this research document is to imagine how the variations in Iran’s international status play out in different configurations of Iran’s power in the Middle East, particularly in relation to its ideological rivalry with Saudi Arabia.
This exercise is important as Iran moves towards reintegration with the global economy. The approach taken here is to create scenarios based on the two variables that are most likely to change India’s relationship with Iran: the status of international sanctions on Iran and the country’s level of influence in the Middle East. This process of reintegration is also a byproduct of variables such as Iran’s nuclear status, its economic health, energy production levels and regional equations that are further examined within the resulting scenarios.
The following four scenarios are explored in this document:
Scenario 1: COMPLIANCE
Iran secures a nuclear deal and its regional influence is on the rise
Scenario 2: STATUS QUO
Talks fail and sanctions intact but Shia ideology and militias make gains in the Middle East
Scenario 3: KHAMENEI’S NIGHTMARE
Iran remains under sanctions and its regional influence is on the decline
Scenario 4: ECONOMY OVER IDEOLOGY
Sanctions phased out and Iran chooses economic growth over an ideological agenda
It is most likely that Iran will decide to comply with a nuclear deal that limits its enrichment capacity and will deter it from acquiring the bomb, even as its regional influence will continue to grow. In light of this possibility, it is recommended that India focus on the following vis-à-vis Iran in the short term:
• Fast track transit projects such as the Chabahar port and connecting railroads
• Intensify high-level diplomacy to be well-positioned when sanctions are lifted
• Create intelligence-sharing mechanism focusing on terror groups operating in Pakistan to complement existing joint working group (JWG) on terrorism
• Expand bilateral cooperation in Afghanistan to fulfil economic goals
• Diversify export items to bridge widening trade deficit
• Extend e-visas to Iranians to reverse suspension of visa-on-arrival for Indians
Today, Iran matters to India not only to fulfil energy needs but, increasingly, as a strategic partner in Afghanistan and a provider of land access to Central Asian markets.
This policy brief can be cited as: Sumitha Narayanan Kutty, “Mapping India’s response to Iran’s changing global status and regional influence”, Takshashila Policy Brief, 2015-S02. (2015) www.takshashila.org.in/1534524506254.