India Trying to Work Around Iran Sanctions

While the West is seeing progress as a result of its sanctions, India is determined to work “creativity” with Iran.

While the West is seeing progress as a result of its sanctions against Iran, with the regime signaling a renewed willingness to negotiate about its secretive nuclear program, nearby India is determined to work “creativity” with the country. The reasons? China, oil and gas.

At The Diplomat, N.V. Subramanian writes about India’s attempts to work around both UN and unilateral American and European sanctions, advising Indian companies operating in Iran to join international consortiums, for instance, which makes it harder for them to be hit by sanctions. “They could also be advised to create new corporate identities with no exposure in the United States or European Union.”

Driving New Delhi’s Iran policy is, in part, the country’s ever growing demand for oil and natural gas. Under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Indian government has begun pursuing a “Look West” approach in the Middle East, strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia in order to ensure a stable supply of necessary resources. It can hardly afford to miss out on Iran’s vast oil and gas supplies.

There is, however, another, at least equally important reason for India to remain engaged with Iran. As Subramanian points out, India’s Ministry of External Affairs is worried about China stepping into a vacuum left by the exit of international corporations from Iran. That would inevitably enhance the Middle Kingdom’s leverage with Tehran and that’s all the motivation New Delhi needs to maintain an active presence there.

While certainly no fan of Iran’s nuclear program, the Indians are in something of a tough spot. India, after all, is itself one of the few countries in the world never to have signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and it built a nuclear weapon illegitimately. With fellow rising powers Brazil and China, it continually defends nations’ right to self-determination, even when it leads them to irritate the West. But it has to wonder whether the price — a nuclear Iran — is worth that fight.


  1. YES, definitly, a strong, advanced and independent from west is worth the fight. and that is what exactly iran is doing and already showed that is ready and capable of it. old civilization like india and china (and iran) know that better than anyone else.

  2. What exactly stands India to gain from a “strong, advanced and independent” Iran though?

  3. What exactly stands India to gain from a “strong, advanced and independent” Iran though?

    1. An introduction to the ‘dancing with the stars’ in the Middle East.
    India and Iran together, can become very influential by aiding each other strategically in a large arc with its footprint reaching from South Africa, to the East Africa rising economies, with a moderating influence over the Arab states of Western Asia and by building bridges with the ‘Stans’ of Central Asia.

    2. By placing Pakistan ‘in its place’ once and for all. With that state capitulating albeit grudgingly to India’s and Iran’s economic and geopolitical agenda.

    3. An Indo-Iranian fulcrum would be a huge counterweight to Chinese socio-economic and socia-cultural hegemony in East Asia. It would effectively mark out the contours of cultural spheres of influence across Asia. With the Sinic cultures leaning more to China along South East Asia and the Middle East finding larger cultural alliance with the ‘new’ cultural renaissant Iran and India.

    4. A greater interface with India, would strengthen the Iranians emphasis on graduating to a ‘fully paid’ up member of the international community. Which that country is bound to desire … as it is alongwith India and will also so remain, amongst the younger countries in the world in terms of average age of its citizens. They are also both ancient mainland Asian civilisations with interactions going back millenia.

    5. The debate has been thus far that the Asian particularism will always be trumped by occidental universalism. An India and Iran alliance would turn the debate on its head. It would require that the two countries stake out relationship based on universalist motivations and this in turn is likely to turn the Occident into a parochialist (particularist) position of us versus them.

    6. But lastly and most importantly, an Iran moderated by the influence of India, will be indispensible in convincing the rest of the Middle East to find a lasting accommodation and acceptance of Israel, provided of course, if Israel genuinely settles the issue of Palestinian statehood. And then build the network of 4I, Israel, Iraq, Iran and India to create an Asian version of NATO.

    Fifty years can change a lot. Just think of the time since the start of the First World War (an exclusively European affair) and the creation of the European Union.


  4. Interesting points, Kalidasa. I can see how an Iranian alliance might benefit India, both with regards to its position in the Middle East and its position vis-a-vis Pakistan. With Iran in such international isolation though and its leaders acting crazier by the day, I’m not sure whether a) India would take the risk and b) it could actually reap the benefits.

    As for creating a political and cultural “block” to counterweight China; don’t you think the differences between the largely Arab Middle East, Persian Iran and Hindu India are too vast to ever accomplish anything like that? At least in the foreseeable future while religion continues to play such an important role in the legitimization of many Middle Eastern governments and regimes?

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