How Iran has presented opposite stories for India & Pakistan
The latest developments in West Asia have laid out different foreign policy trajectories for India and Pakistan, the two South Asian rivals.
And while New Delhi isn't complaining, Islamabad is more than worried.
The execution of a Shiite cleric along with 46 others by Saudi Arabia on January 2 sparked a serious row with Iran. The protests against the Sunni kingdom's act even saw its embassy in Tehran ransacked, resulting in Riyadh's Sunni allies calling off diplomatic ties with Iran.
For Pakistan, signs are worrying
For Pakistan, a Sunni majority country with a large Shia minority, this escalating row between two big players in West Asia is worrisome. Islamabad has its own sectarian tensions at home that could reach alarming levels if the relation between Saudi Arabia and Iran worsens further.
While Islamabad has a strategic proximity to Riyadh, which had given current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a political asylum after he was ousted in a military coup in 1999, it also has a stake in better economic relation with Iran, with which it shares its western border. It is in a hurry to finish off a major gas pipeline project to Iran.
That Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif and Army Chief Raheel Sharif embarked on a visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran on Monday to ease the growing tension shows the extent of seriousness of the situation. From its foreign policy perspective, this is a serious challenge.
For India, these are happy times
For India, on the other hand, the lifting of the sanctions on Iran by the West on January 16 is a welcome opportunity. New Delhi, till recently, had a major impediment in dealing with Tehran to procure oil as the Americans were least impressed with the West Asian nation's nuclear ambitions.
India even adopted a rupee-based payment mode with Iran to avoid the West's sanctions that curbed purchases from Iran in dollars.
Now, the easing of sanctions would mean India can freely buy the crude from Iran though a glut in oil supply could also leave some adverse effect.
Besides oil, India would now be able to invest in Iran's vast natural resources.
The ONGC was in talks with Iran's state company Pars Oil and Gas Co. to resume activities in a $10 billion gas project which it abandoned as a result of the US pressure.
India is also looking forward to see a surge in its Basmati rice export to Iran, which had seen a fall in the recent times.
From a strategic point of view, too, India now finds itself at an advantage after its two quarreling friends, the US and Iran, found themselves at ease. It will help New Delhi to serve its national interests better in an otherwise volatile West Asia.
The oil pipeline project and the development of the Chhabahar port will also regain the focus and help India's role in the extended power game in South Asia vis-à-vis Pakistan and China. Tehran is also expected to invite India's expertise, labour and investment in various sectors, ushering in an era of greater cooperation.
For Pakistan, on the other hand, the tension between its two friends Saudi Arabia and Iran could lead to an exactly obverse conclusion.