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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. (PTI)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. (PTI)

Opinion | A pragmatic foreign policy, please

If India expects reciprocity from its neighbours on terrorism, can India really complain if the US expects it to comply with its demands on Iran?

Come 2 May, Iran oil waivers extended to India and seven other countries come to an end. On the face of it, this presents New Delhi with something of a dilemma, given that Iran is one of its top sources of crude oil, available at concessional rates, and many Indian refineries are configured to process oil imported from that country.

Analysts have long underlined the importance of Tehran as an energy partner—the Islamic Republic’s geographical proximity to India being a key factor. New Delhi’s stance, as consistently stated, has long been that the country will adhere to UN sanctions rather those issued by any country.

The world we live in, however, is a transactional one. Give and take is the order of the day. India has been seeking global support for its position on terrorism: that is, pressure from the international community on Pakistan. And so long as the US is the pre-eminent power in the world, it is American support that counts for most.

Post the 14 February Pulwama attack, India has cooperated extensively with the US on counter-terrorism measures. So much so, Washington has supported moves to label Pakistan-based Masood Azhar a terrorist. If India expects reciprocity from neighbours on terrorism, can India really complain if the US expects India to comply with its demands on Iran, a country it views as a sponsor of terrorism?

India need not concur with this view, of course, but ignoring US sanctions on Iran comes with a cost. Indian companies dealing with Iran could face secondary sanctions. US counter-terrorism cooperation would be scaled down. This price in the long run is likely to outweigh any money the country saves on Iranian oil supplies.

About a decade ago, India displayed a pragmatic streak by opting to vote against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a time when New Delhi was negotiating the Indo-US nuclear deal. It’s time again to choose pragmatism.

The US will not interfere with India's investments at Iran's Chabahar port. This can continue to underpin New Delhi’s commercial ties with Tehran. On oil, however, other sources of supply will have to be found.

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