India snubs US ban on Iran, says it abides only by UN sanctions
New Delhi on Monday, May 28, showed its intent to continue friendship with Iran without any interruption by saying that it abided only by sanctions that the United Nations has imposed on the West Asian country and not by individual countries. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said this at a press conference held on the fourth anniversary of the Narendra Modi government and observers felt it was an indirect snub to the United States.
US President Donald Trump announced his country's withdrawal from the Iran deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) of 2015, calling it "flawed" and ordered sanctions to be reimposed on Iran. This raised the prospects of turmoil in West Asia once again since the deal was aimed at containing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Trump's decision to scuttle the Iran deal did not only put India's economic (oil) interests in trouble but also its strategic interests. India has been working closely with Iran to develop its Chabahar Port to beat Pakistan and China in the regional strategic competition and the US's sudden escalation of things with Iran is going to hurt India's interests. India eyes closer ties with Afghanistan and Iran to contain Pakistan and also challenge China's growing influence on the route to Central Asia.
Swaraj's stance that India will determine its stance on Iran independently shows how much significance New Delhi attaches to its relations with Tehran.
The foreign minister's statement came hours before she met her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, who is in India to seek New Delhi's support for the multilateral nuclear deal that Trump scrapped. Zarif is visiting several key countries in the wake of Trump's decision to mobilise support. Countries like China and Russia have already backed Iran on the deal.
After Swaraj's meeting with Zarif ended, a government official said India wanted countries that are in the deal (four permanent UN Security Council members besides Germany and the European Union) to constructively engage with Tehran in the wake of the US's sudden exit, agencies reported.
The Chabahar Port issue also came up at the discussion between the two foreign ministers. India is also worried that a break in the momentum over the port diplomacy could see Iran extending hand towards its rivals like Pakistan and China, jeopardising its plans completely. Iran has already invited Pakistan to become a part of the Chabahar development process - a call that would leave New Delhi jittery.
India's relations with Iran witnessed an upswing since Modi's visit to Tehran in 2016 when the two countries signed several agreements, including one on the development of the Chabahar Port. They also signed a trilateral pact featuring Afghanistan for better connectivity between all the countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also visited India in February this year during when the two sides pledged to improve their cooperation in various sectors. They also included one about leasing a part of Chabahar Port to Indian hands for a period of 18 months.