Balancing Rivals: India’s Tightrope between Iran and the United States
Harsh V. Pant and Julie M. Super
This article examines India’s bilateral relations with the U.S. and Iran and
argues that Indian interests, rather than increased pressure from the U.S., will
continue to shape New Delhi’s policies toward Iran.
In light of steady economic growth since the turn of the century, the
Indian government has positioned energy security as a key foreign policy
consideration to sustain the economic and social development crucial to
India’s rise in the international system. Within this framework, India has been
required to perform a delicate balancing act in relations with Iran and the
U.S. This article maintains that Indian interests, rather than U.S. pressure, will
determine the course of India’s relations with Iran. This conclusion is drawn
from an analysis of India’s bilateral relations with both countries, giving due
consideration to India’s energy security needs, internal dynamics, ties with
Israel, and regional interests.
- Energy security will remain a key consideration in Indian foreign policy for
the foreseeable future. Although investment in alternative sources of energy
will help reduce the perceived need for relations with Iran, the sufficient development of such sources remains a long-term aspiration.
New Delhi’s continued emphasis on strategic autonomy undercuts efforts
by Washington to influence Indo-Iranian relations. Engaging India in
international energy forums, such as the International Energy Agency, will
encourage dialogue on developing alternative solutions to India’s energy
security needs while allowing India to preserve its strategic autonomy.
India’s relations with Iran could prove to be a useful bridge between the
U.S. and Iran. Rather than push to curb these ties, Washington may find
value in considering New Delhi’s potential role as an interlocutor in
reaching out to Tehran.