Iran-Israel spat: National Interest is Supreme
India appears to be caught in crossfire between Iran and Israel.
New Delhi should evaluate the strategic dividends that accrue from Iran and Israel before it responds to the developing crisis.
There are many advantages in our relationship with Tehran. Iran is the second largest oil supplier to India after Saudi Arabia. India’s access to Afghanistan and Central Asia is via Iran as access by land route through Pakistan is unlikely to be available in the foreseeable future. As Central Asia holds huge reserves of oil and gas, access to this region will be vitally important for India’s energy security. Our absence in Central Asia will give China runaway success.
Similarly, we can neither overlook nor allow our presence to be diminished in Afghanistan as the exhausted armies of the West withdraw. This will result in emergence of an Islamic Emirate under the tutelage of Pakistan that will stretch from Kabul to Islamabad and pose a serious threat to India’s multi-cultural and multi-party democracy. In addition, Tehran’s connectivity boasts of a large population of Shias who reside in India.
However, though profitable, the pipeline for gas or oil from Iran is not feasible due to the adverse security situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This situation is likely to persist for a long time to come.
On the other hand, New Delhi has very strong defence cooperation with Tel Aviv whereby we procure highly sensitive defence technologies. Presence of not-so-friendly authoritarian Islamic fundamentalist regime and communist China in the neighbourhood, renders defence cooperation with Israel vitally important. We tend to see Israel in isolation as a small country by itself but the story does not end there. We need to take into account its influence and leverage with the largest superpower of the world. Further America, which supports Israel also leads the Western Alliance, which consists of very powerful group of nations. Therefore, Israel and the Western Alliance together lend an extraordinary strategic advantage to India in multiple ways. It is also noteworthy that the youth from India gravitate to the western world for education and work opportunity and not to dictatorial regimes of Iran or China. This phenomenon is attributable to shared values and respect for freedom.
In addition, the Arab World dominated by Sunnis is vehemently opposed to Iran (dominated by Shias) acquiring nuclear weapons. The Arab world will expect the United States to intervene militarily if necessary to thwart Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapons. India interacts in multiple ways profitably with the Arab countries too which includes supplies of oil.
This big picture of strategic weight must be kept in view while working out Indiaâs response so as to not to impinge on national interests.
Israel, the western alliance led by America and the Arab world constitute large group of countries, which offer huge strategic benefits. This big picture of strategic weight must be kept in view while working out India’s response so as to not to impinge on national interests.
Besides lack of resources, most of the western armies are exhausted and are in withdrawal mode from Afghanistan. Further, this being an election year in USA, the domestic constituency after Iraq and Afghanistan wars will not permit America to be involved in another war. The economic recession in the European Union is too severe to be overlooked. Therefore, most of the players that support Israel are not willing to precipitate a conflict even while there are clear indications that Iran is moving towards becoming a nuclear weapon state.
In case war is imposed, Iran will mine the Strait of Hormuz and disrupt oil supplies to majority of the countries. While Iran may not have conventional military superiority, it definitely boasts of asymmetric warfare capabilities that can damage the already heavily recessed world economy. Despite the grave provocation by Iran through display of nuclear technology capabilities, it is in the interest of majority of the nations to avert war.
India is one of the few countries in the world that maintains healthy relationships with most of the nations involved. It is in India’s interest, therefore, to emerge in the role of a mediator to diffuse tensions between different players.